Getting … Iked!
"Baby, do you understand me now …"
Dateline: The Road To Explanation
I remember the rain dripping from her nose.
I remember following the path of one lone drop as it leapt from the bottom of her now straight and frizzy hair, landed on her khaki London Fog raincoat, circled every button before crashing with a splash on the linoleum kitchen floor.
But even more so, I remember how she was looking at me – the look, a mixture of why and fear.
And she said nothing, just stood there in the kitchen doorway, dripping, holding paper shopping bags, the contents of which where starting to fall out of the soaked bottom of the bag.
A lone box of Macaroni and Cheese was lying on the doorway threshold between the kitchen and dining room.
I was sitting at the dining room table, mostly looking straight down at the grain of the oak, sometimes raising my head for a quick glance at my dripping wife.
Spread around me were a dozen or so sheets of handwritten interview notes.
Off to my right was an open window, tiny sprays of rain would come in on the breeze of the storm, outside, and collect on the dining room drapes.
But it was the storm inside that Barb stood, dripping, and waiting to hear about.
It was the storm inside that caused her to be drenched.
The storm inside, me.
The storm inside me, and of course, mainly actually, the old Royal manual typewriter three stories below the open window.
The old Royal manual typewriter stuck like a spear into the asphalt driveway.
The old Royal manual typewriter spear that blocked Barb from driving the car into the garage, out of the rain, and coming into the house and up three flights of stairs dry, with dry bags of groceries.
To her credit, Barb never said a word, so it was to the grain in the oak table that I said, this, and only this, "It was messing up my story..."
At which she turned, put the groceries on the kitchen table, and then walked past me to the bathroom to dry off.
"… so it had to go."
I made no excuses for throwing the typewriter out of our apartment window, nor did I a year or so later when the replacement Royal manual ended up three stories down in Barb's tomato garden.
And I make no apology now…except to Elite Angler Denny Brauer's wife, Shirley.
Sunrise, Clear Lake, Calif.
The lake was on fire, colored a blaze red by the newborn sun, the foothills framed the scene in burnt orange.
And there sat Shirley Brauer, alone at a picnic table, taking in the miracle of the birth of a new day here on planet earth.
At peace, she was. For the moment. Unaware that behind her, a missile was heading straight for the back of her head.
A missile in the shape of a computer mouse.
A computer mouse minus the USB connector thing that was still stuck, somewhat bent, in my laptop back in the hotel.
Once again … a table strewn with interview notes and a mechanical thing … a TOOL … not working right … and messing up my story.
So … it had to go.
I ripped it out of the laptop, went to the back door of my hotel room that overlooked the lake, opened the door and started to fling it into the lake …
Unfortunately, between me, the computer mouse and the lake, sat Shirley.
Once it dawned on me that Shirley was in missile range, at the very last second before the mouse left my hand, I arched my wrist up a bit, and the offending story messing up mouse sailed a few feet over Shirley's head before plopping harmlessly into Clear Lake.
Do I have anger issues? No.
I have never once in 38 years of marriage ever yelled at Barb in any way shape or form.
Pretty much the same way with my two, now grown, children.
No road rage.
No Friday night bar fisticuffs.
But, if you are a technical thing, a tool, and you are between me and a story and you are messing up … beware.
"… sometimes I feel a little mad …"
I have flashpoints.
Not with people, but with things, me versus things. Me versus things especially while in the act of doing what it is I do.
Riley, Barb's dog can jump on me and want to go out back to pee, or for a walk, "out FRONT," and while it drives me crazy while I'm trying to write a story, there is never a moment in my brain when I consider turning the Shih Tzu into a fury missile.
There was though … a busted up HP printer in the trash bin a while ago.
"Printer Error … printer error … printer off-line …"
All while trying to print off a story.
So it had to go.
I make no excuses for my actions … but as costly as they are, what with replacing typewriters, printers, and the several half dozen or so computer mouse things now littering the Bassmaster Elite trails … no excuses, because without those flashpoints, I couldn't do what it is I do.
Which is why I understand my friend, Michael Iaconelli, perfectly.
I get, Ike.
"…but don't you know that no one alive
can always be an angel…"
The first 30 seconds of B.A.S.S. I ever saw was on YouTube, I was just told I was going to be writing about B.A.S.S. and frankly, I had no idea what it was, so my son went into the dining room/office and pulled up a clip of B.A.S.S. on YouTube … and there was Ike rolling around on his boat screaming.
I looked at it and first thought, “Oh My God, what kind of a fish is this bass thing. It's biting that poor man's hand off, he's screaming in pain.”
And when I said that out loud, my son just looked up at me and said, “Ah, not quite. He's just celebrating catching the fish.”
Oh … okay … so it's the spike in the End Zone and the following Touchdown dance he's doing. And then the video suddenly segue into a montage of broken windshields and broken rods and this is exactly what I thought when I saw that, "Oh … stuffs messing up his story."
And, "It has got to go."
"db, when you see that, it's like … it's like a purge. It's how I purge myself. And once I do that, it's done, and I move on," Iaconelli told me during a break at a recent Bass University he was running in Worcester, Mass.
Think of it as a catharsis.
Frankly, I don't think it has anything to do with ANGER at all … I think for me, for Ike, it is nothing more than a Reboot of the system.
It's when we click the restart button.
"I know on the face value of it, what people see, on face value there is a negative reaction to it. I get that db, but if you took that away from me … took away what looks bad, but for me is good … then I wouldn't even be here …"
Neither would I … be here … or writing anywhere if not for typewriter spears, and mouse missiles.
If you want dry, just the facts, formalistic writing stuff don't look my way, I would throw ME out the window if I had to do that, I couldn't do that, but if you want emotion, explosions on the page, a catch your breath read, then you know what … freakin' duck!
Because stuff is going to be flying, and I would have it no other way.
Neither would Ike … and God Bless him for that.
"Back before I was a professional angler, it was the emotion and the passion and the explosions that helped me get to where I'm at. It takes me to another level …"
Ike's head is cocked while he is saying this, the skin of his face is getting all tight. He leans slightly forward. We are going to another level right here in the empty meeting room of the Hyatt.
And that is perfect. It is not anger; it is flat out pure emotion. And trust me; you don't want to be following a sport played without emotion – sport is emotion. You've got enough dry-arse stuff happening in that cubicle of work, of the life you occupy. Wouldn't you give your left “you-know-what” for some damn emotion in your life?
Folks, life is flopping on the deck screaming. Life is a broken rod or windshield, the creative process be it writing, catching a fish, or winning at whatever it is you do, is flopping and screaming. You sign that big deal, shake hands and then get up and shout, fist pump and dance around the boardroom.
Live, Love, Have Zest.
But let me tell you something, if you think all there is to Ike is the flopping, breaking and screaming … you're wrong. In fact, for the most part, he is not that at all.
Meet the Mike, behind the Ike.
"…when things go wrong I seem to be bad…"
but I'm just a soul whose intentions are good…"
Had he been near a window, and had I been stronger … out he would have gone.
I was sitting on a guardrail with his wife Becky, and we were waiting for Mike to stop signing autographs and taking photos with fans.
We had been sitting there one hour and fifteen minutes after the end of the Bassmaster Elite weigh-in…and he was still signing and talking with all those crowded around him.
"You get used to it," Becky said. "He does this all the time. I've waited sometimes more than 2 hours after the weigh-in."
In two decades of covering the famous, and those who think they are famous athletes, no one…NO ONE is better with the fans than Michael Iaconelli.
I never call him Ike, to me, he is and will always be … Mike. I have seen his public displays, both the flopping and shouting, and behind the scenes, the hugging and smiles.
A saw him, was with him as he took a young child, a young child with a bad disease, saw Ike become Mike right in front of me as he met the child, and then took the child with him into the media room and showed him how things worked behind the scenes.
I bet, the young child will never forget that time spent with Mike. I bet that, because the boy told me that, as did his Aunt and Uncle who stood there with tears in their eyes.
Last Saturday, at The Bass University in Worcester, Mass., it was my turn for watery eyes. It was at the end of a long day. Mike flew in that morning and gave two or three seminars … plus went downstairs to the fishing show and did things for his sponsors. He was on the move from beginning to end.
As Mike and I were sitting in the now empty seminar room, a military veteran on a cane came up to Mike and started talking to him. Stuff like that happens a lot, and Mike, being Mike, took the time to have a conversation with the soldier.
And then, to me, a moment happened that should overshadow any film you have playing in your head showing you what you think the real Ike is like.
The soldier told Mike about a Marine Corporal who was a huge fan of Mike's.
"But the guy is in a bad way. He's in the Wounded Warrior Regiment at Quantico and is having a real tough time with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)."
To which Mike replied, "Do you have his phone number?"
At which point the soldier took out his cell phone and dialed the number and handed the phone to Mike.
"Hello is this _____? Hi, how are you? This is Mike Iaconelli calling … How are you doing?"
And for the next several minutes, in a empty seminar room in Worcester, Mass., Mike Iaconelli talked fishing … talked about the Bassmaster Classic with a wounded warrior he had never met, did not know, but who he instantly bonded with before my eyes.
"…but I'm just a soul whose intentions are good…"
Iked Up … Getting Iked … the flopping, the yelling, the breaking of things, is it theater of the absurd, is it an act of frustration.
When I asked him that he told me: "db it is who I am, who I've been all my life … emotional … excitable … but you know what, it takes me to another level, it … helps … me."
And when he said that, I knew it to be true. Because for every typewriter out the window. For every printer in the trash. For every computer mouse in a lake. What came next was magic.
What came next made me better.
What comes next for Mike makes him better.
To think otherwise, would be akin to placing a teapot on a hot burner and being surprised when it starts to whistle.
The typewriter in Barb's tomato garden.
The broken rod in Mike's hand.
All it is, is how we let off …
"…Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood."
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood