It was interesting to note that Monday's edition of USA Today featured an eight-line sidebar on the next-to-last page panning the Classic. Front-page stories included NASCAR, baseball and NCAA basketball as well as the closing of the Winter Olympics. Featured stories included a medium-sized article on drag racing and one of the ten-page sports section devoted almost entirely to football. Is it not the off-season for football? Where is the love?
Until this week, I have never been in a media or press room before in my life and I'm not sure I want to spend a lot of time in another one. The only reason I would want to return would be to have someone sticking a recorder in my face.
I'm sure the Media Room at the CITGO Bassmaster Classic pales in comparison to the Super Bowl, but the concept is the same. The best description that comes to mind would be a hot, steaming trough of journalistic love. It was interesting to see the positioning and posturing by the competing dot-coms, print media and freelancers.
Sentries from some of the media outlets were sent to the top of the escalators off the stage to be the first in line to round up an angler as he exited. What's the big hurry to catch a guy as soon as he gets off the stage? Any angler that has his head screwed on straight would want to talk to every reporter in the room.
Every journalist cabbaged onto their own space at the tables, scrabbling for electrical outlets and network cables. Food was brought out and quickly ravaged. Hot dogs and popcorn seem to be a staple in the media business; they were present every day. Must be some crossover from baseball.
Everyone seemed to get along really well, with a few exceptions of some underlying tension. Maybe old war wounds or long-time spats. Most of the guys and girls were cool. A few were jerks. Some came to report on the happenings; some came with an agenda and an axe to grind.
And a bag of chips
Was it everything I had ever dreamed? Yes and no. I was fortunate enough to be privy to some of the behind-the-scenes activity. Many people attend the Classic Outdoor Expo and go to the weigh-in each year, yet never see what it takes to produce the event.
Watching a plastic bag of fresh tapes from the field being ripped open and scattered across the floor of the editing trailer was wild. Tape couriers were assigned to each cameraman on the final day. As the cameramen recorded the tapes, courier boats would pick these tapes up and transfer them to another boat that would run them back to Big Toho Marina and the editing shack.
In the shack, the crew would quickly sort through the tapes searching for those marked with the word "fish." This noted that the tape contained images of the respective angler reeling one in. The crew would analyze the tapes and clip out the scenes that contained action or commentary on the angler's part. Think about how much time during a day's fishing involves absolutely dead time. How long would you want to watch someone stand in front of a boat, silently casting a rubber worm to some lily pads? This crew has the dubious honor of weeding through all the dead time in no less than twelve angler's day.
After they have picked through the tapes, the selected images were sent though a satellite uplink across town to the main control center at the Orange County Convention Center. Here the images are further gleaned for content that they want to run for both the live feeds and the weigh-in production. We haven't even started on the Classic show that will air next week on ESPN2. That's a story in itself.
The hundreds of tapes that were recorded on the three days of competition will be flown back to production facilities on Sunday night. Further editing will be done, graphics will be compiled and generated, interviews and analysis will be completed, and several hundred man-hours will be spent before the show is ready on Friday.
All this to show the world scenes of guys capturing and releasing some little green fish. Is this a great country or what?
An event the size of the Bassmasters Classic is a logistical nightmare. It is amazing that this beast ever gets off the ground and flies without crashing. It is even more amazing when something this complex goes off without any significant problems.
There are hundreds of people in the background that receive little if any recognition for the part that they play in the success of such an event. All those bleachers and the stage have to be assembled and disassembled. Thousands of watts of electricity have to be routed. Miles of video and network wires have to be rolled out, connected and then rolled back up at the conclusion. Someone has to pick up the trash every day. Thousands of square yards have to be laid for the Outdoor Expo. Displays have to be assembled and disassembled.
All this has to take place in a timely manner; there are events scheduled before and after the Classic. There is a group of people somewhere that determines when everything needs to be done.
All for some little green fish.
What's it all mean
One thing I am taking away from the 2006 Classic week is determination.
Until last week, I didn't truly realize and could not appreciate the value of Classic exposure. I can't honestly say that the past two seasons, I have had the goal of qualifying for the Classic fixed in my mind. I have been focused on fishing just to be fishing. That focus has shifted.
Do you fish for limit fish every day or try to win every derby? Might be time to rethink my hero or zero mentality and try for some consistency. While I don't think that a limit every day of every tournament this season will get you to the Big Show, I do believe that being solid every day will make the grade.
Fishing smart and making the most of every day will be key for those 37 anglers at the top of the Elite Series standings at the conclusion of this season's eleven events. Huge sacks are going to be weighed in at many of the events. Those are the days when an angler needs to make sure that he is in the mix.
There will be some days and some venues where the catches will be less than spectacular. On those days, the guys that figure out that little extra something can grab some bonus points on the field. The Elite Series season will be long; longer than any that BASS has had in several years. The angler that leads the points race at the conclusion and the 36 that follow him with 2007 Classic qualifications will have worked their way across the country with dogged determination to realize a goal. Few, if any, will make it because of luck.
My goal: be one of those 37 that cross the stage for the 2007 Bassmaster's Classic.