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My Top 3 Most Embarrassing Sports Moments #2

June 21, 2010

My second-most embarrassing sports moment could just as easily be first, however it happened on Father’s Day, eight years ago.  I was not yet a father at the time, and on the surface, this moment has nothing to do with cycling.  It did, however, so influence my choice of hobby that it ushered in a return to cycling after a many-years absence.

The Measure of a Man

I was raised in the Midwest and did not move to Texas until twelve years ago.  My preconceptions about Texans came from my childhood family ski trips to Colorado where it seemed there were more skiers from the Lone Star State than any other.  They all seemed brash, loud, jovial, and wealthy.  Upon moving to Texas, I quickly learned from the men I encounetered, that manliness in Texas is measured chiefly by the following point system:

  1. The ownership of a full-size truck +10 points [or larger. Those with addendums like “super-duty” or “F-350” or “Cummins Turbodiesel” or have a kit lifting the body more than 12″ get extra manly points.  I actually owned a Ford Ranger compact pickup when I moved to Texas and a new friend commented that I “should be making real truck money now”.] (1 extra point given for “RealTree truck trim kit–example shown below)

    Deer won't see where you parked your truck...

  2. The ownership of a boat. +10 points  This is an indicator fishing prowess.  A bass boat is perfectly acceptable, but all boats must possess an outboard motor providing at minimum 475 horsepower.  [This also indicates prowess at backing a trailer, of which I have none…more later]
  3. The following equation: (Annual time spent hunting+(1 point for taking off the opening week of dove season)+(number of shotguns owned+number of rifles owned+number of handguns owned)+(5 points for possessing a concealed-carry permit)+(acres of deer-lease claimed) [you will notice no actual reference to animals killed–this is really optional although the more rare the species and/or large the buck adds to one’s manly mystique]

Demerits can be collected for a host of reasons, all of the following examples of which I have personal exprience:

  1. Demonstrating non-proficiency at backing a trailer.  [I once borrowed my friend’s truck and trailer to haul my own sod–unfortunately I first lost some off the top of the load on main street downtown when I took a turn too fast (1 demerit) and then due to my poor backing skills had to replace the bumper and broke both control-arms on the trailer (2 demerits).  In short, it cost me more in money and embarrassment than it would have to pay someone to install my front yard…but I digress]
  2. Driving a minivan exacts a penalty of five demerits.
  3. Demonstrating failure at the sport of fishing results in ten demerits.

#3 above brings us to the embarrassing moment itself:  fishing failure.

Thoughtfulness

I have fished since I was a kid.  My grandfather had a house on a lake in central Minnesota and I would go walleye fishing several times a year.  I also fished in Iowa for catfish and bass, at least weekly at a pond near my house.  My thoughtful wife and a friend’s wife decided it would be very nice to buy us a day of guided fishing for largemouth bass on Lake Fork, a Texas lake of renown for producing fat largemouths.  We arrived and as we chatted with our guide, he could sense that we were reasonably accomplished fishermen and that at least he would not have to worry about dealing with a lot of equipment issues.  For a guide, this means that they get to fish, too, instead of babysitting “newbies”.    He told a story of how last week he had to deal with a group that didn’t even know how to cast, and that he was glad he wouldn’t have to deal with that today.  We had a good laugh–morons[Note: previous statement pregnant with dramatic foreshadowing…]

We chose our rods and I was persuaded to use a baitcasting reel instead of the spinning reel I was familiar with.  I could sense the potential trouble as I knew that baitcasters were generally fickle instruments that if operated incorrectly resulted in “backlash”, essentially a tangled bird’s nest of monofilament fishing line.  “I’ve never used one of these before,” I nervously commented.  I was assured that this was no problem.  He showed me the “brake” used to prevent backlash and the day began.  We got a few strikes and the guide recognized my technique and said, “You’re a walleye fisherman aren’t you?  I can tell by the hook-set.”  Wow.  This guy knows his stuff.

The Downward Spiral

On one of my longer casts, I had my first case of backlash.  The guide saw this happen and said, “No problem–you can fish with mine while I take care of that for you.”  Okay, no problem indeed.  He’s dealt with this before and quickly had it sorted out and we exchanged rods again.  By this time my friend had landed a nice-sized bass which was released.  Our luck soured at this spot and we moved on.  To keep a long story short, I proceeded to have backlash from casting in exponential fashion from here, and the guide’s irritation began to grow with each successive tangle.  After my third backlash and heavy sigh from the guide it dawned on me…I was becoming the moron that he laughed about and would complain about to his next group! 

The Moron

I was determined to salvage the afternoon and at least catch a fish and do no more ego damage.  I did catch about a five pound largemouth later in the afternoon (the photo of which, unfortunately was lost).  After that catch we moved again, and I casted and produced my biggest mess of tangled backlash that day.  “Give it to me,” the guide groaned and thrust his rod at me to continue fishing while he extracted the mess.  He set the trolling motor to send us in circles while he worked on my reel.  I didn’t want to fish any more.  I now had become the butt of many future jokes and had only caught one damn fish to show for it.  I angrily casted one more time and snipped to the guide, “Let’s just get through the day.”  This cast resulted in yet another mess of backlash “Un..be..lievable,” my mind said.  My heart sank and I felt the acrid taste of stomach acid in the back of my throat.  I did not wish to show this guy yet another fail, so I held the reel close to my chest and tried to work on the tangle quieltly–I would fix the mess before he noticed.  What I failed to notice, though, while concentrating on the puzzle at hand, was that my line in the water was coming dangeously close to the trolling motor…SNAP! I held reflexively onto the rod that had jerked down as the line wrapped around the prop and broke his carbon fiber rod in two. “Oh….no….” my mind thought as I gently closed my eyes.  “That’ll cost you three hundred and twenty-seven bucks!”  The guide barked at me.  This marked a timely end to our day.  We motored back to shore in silence and I got out my checkbook and wrote a check for guide services rendered and $327 extra for the broken rod.  (I still don’t know how he came up with such an accurate number, but hey, he knew my fishing history based on my hook setting technique so surely he knew.)  Fuming, we met the spouses for dinner that evening, with the smiling, expectant “How was the fishing?!”  look on their faces.  My wife knew something was wrong because of the heat-shimmer emanating from my head.  Or perhaps the scowl.  My fishing buddy sat quietly at the dinner table across from me.  I began to recant the day’s activities which were indeed so ridiculous and self-deprecating that it became more funny than painful.  My friend broke into guffaws of laughter, thankful that he had been released from his self-enforced silence and could laugh at me and with me.  I’ve never been fishing since.  I soon after took up mountain biking and cycling again and have never looked back.

My Manliness Quotient

So lets see, I have calculated by the above criteria the average number for passable machismo in Texas to be approximately 200.  More than this qualifies you as a man’s man.  I calculated my qutient to be -20*.  This puts me squarely in the realm of Texas manliness of this guy:

John Waters, writer of Hairspray

I don’t have a pencil-thin mustache, but I’m seriously considering growing one.

* I arrived at this number as follows (zero points for not owning a truck, full size or otherwise, minus 5 points for driving a small minivan.  Zero points for time spent hunting annually plus three points for the shotgun and two handguns that I own.  Zero points for zero acres of deer lease.  3 demerits for the above-mentioned witnessed and public trailer failure.  Minus ten points for the tragic fishing failure.  Extra 5 points deducted for wearing spandex more than once/week.

Happy Father’s Day, Dads!

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