Growing up in the wilds of northern New Jersey four decades ago, I wanted to be the next Curt Gowdy.
Not the one who was the voice of so many famous sporting events, including the 1969 Colts-Jets Super Bowl and the Orioles-Mets World Series of the same year. I wanted someday to be the host of ABC's The American Sportsman.
Every year, from the time I was little, my father and I would plop ourselves down in front of the TV in the coldest winter months and let Gowdy take us to faraway places to fish and hunt with famous people we could never hope to meet.
Out in the woods around our house, my friends and I would re-enact great Gowdy moments.
A teeny panfish wiggling on spinning gear became a muscular tarpon on a fly rod. We sneaked up on foraging squirrels the way Gowdy and Co. scouted elk.
With a twig as a microphone, we would interview each other about our latest exploits. If Gowdy ever retired, we felt ready to step in.
Later, to my amazement, I heard the warm and inviting voice of Gowdy calling Red Sox games on the transistor radio I kept under my pillow for late-night listening.
The American Sportsman left the airwaves ages ago. Gowdy left us last week at the age of 86.
He didn't just talk about being a sportsman, he was one.
A friend passed along a piece of his interview with Gowdy last year in which he talked about the foundation in sportsmanship his father gave him growing up in Wyoming in the 1920s:
"The daily limit for trout was 20 then; it's two now. I was about to put a fish in my creel when my father said, 'Curtis, remember the buffalo. There used to be millions of them on these plains, and then they were gone.' I released that fish because we already had enough for food, and my father's words stuck with me for the rest of my life."
ESPN made two horrible attempts at reviving the show, once with the earnest yet wooden Rick Schroeder and then with the boorish Deion Sanders. Luckily, both disappeared before sullying the reputation of Gowdy's show.
Pat Smith, an Emmy Award-winning writer for The American Sportsman, summed Gowdy up better than I could:
"He was in life as he was behind the mike: understated, generous and truthful. For five decades, he spoke to millions with a voice that flowed smooth and full, like a dry-fly glide on a trout stream.
"A river ran through Curt Gowdy. It glittered with anecdote, danced with dates and places and people he had known, and, always, it rolled deep with insight. For every great sports moment he covered - and he covered more than any broadcaster - he had a defining observation, clear and bright and simple, like sunlight.
"In the glare of fame, he was humble. In the heat of athletic competition, he was calm and accurate, reporting the moment for the fan, not for the ratings."
Replace Curt Gowdy? Not in his lifetime. Not in mine.
Citizens take action
For the second time in recent months, the public has helped shape fishing policy.
The Department of Natural Resources has dropped its ill-advised plan to allow commercial yellow perch fishing in two Eastern Shore rivers, the Nanticoke and Choptank.
Recreational anglers flooded the zone with complaints, packing two public information meetings and lobbying state lawmakers to step in front of the agency's full-speed-ahead proposal.
It didn't hurt that this is an election year. But it was heartening to see so many regular folks take time off from work or give up an evening or two to focus a little light on the situation.
In a similar push last fall, citizen groups flexed their muscles and forced the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to cap the netting of menhaden for commercial food products while scientists study why the Chesapeake Bay population is declining.
Now, DNR is stuck with a smoking fish. The doctors in the triage unit will do with the yellow perch question what it should have done from the git-go: invite resources users to be part of the process instead of handing down an edict to the folks who pay the bills.
But the damage has been done - again.
Watermen, who thought they had a deal, feel betrayed.
Recreational anglers, who never bought into DNR's claims that it had science to back its proposal, have another reason to be suspicious of this plan and any others the agency hatches.
Ultimately, of course, everyone may agree that the yellow perch stock, at perilously low levels in the 1970s, has recovered to allow some recreational or commercial fishing.
But what an incredible waste of time, effort and goodwill.
Other side of coin
Contrast the mess in fishing with the hunting arm of DNR, which is holding three meetings on proposed regulations for the next two seasons.
After meeting with hunting groups earlier this month, wildlife managers tinkered with the wording and crafted the proposed language. You can look at their handiwork online at dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/comments.
For the central Maryland region, the meeting will be at 1 p.m. on March 11 at Central Middle School, 211 Central Ave. East, Edgewater.
For Eastern Shore folks, it will be held at 7 p.m. on March 7 at Easton High School, 723 Mecklenburg Ave.,
For everyone in bear country, it will be at 7 p.m. on March 9 at Fort Hill High School, 500 Greenway Ave., Cumberland.
If you can't make the hearing, but want to add your two cents, write to Paul Peditto, DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service, Tawes State Office Building, Annapolis 21401.
Other options are to call 410-260-8540 or 877-620-8DNR, ext. 8540; fax, 410-260-8596, or e-mail email@example.com. md.us. The deadline is March 13.