People have asked me what American BeheMouth, a novel full of fishing stories, has to do with American sports and baseball. First of all, the novel is not just about fishing—it’s about America and what Americans have become. It’s also about what American sports heroes have become with a particular emphasis on baseball. I don’t spend any time talking about the game, but I do talk about sports history and baseball’s fallen heroes, all buried in a fishing tale.
Other writers have used fishing as a metaphor before me, including Mehlville and Hemingway. The metaphor works as a great story telling vehicle without writing a lecture on the evils of performance-enhancing drugs. I show the subtle way the protagonist makes ethical slips that many of us can relate to.
America has become lazy, trying to find the easy way to success and fame, not by hard work, but by short cuts, be it our bankers, Wall Street investors, politicians, or sports heroes.
The protagonist’s moral lapse is reminiscent of sports heroes and politicians we all know. He uses his credit card to finance the dream, hand feeding his behemouth thousands of bait fish. He also sprays chemicals on the lake to increase the baitfish size. Those who take chemical means in order to set records cause a problem in all sports categories. Having a series of asterisks or various codes to indicate overturned records has become too commonplace.
Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency
Recently, with the accusations against Lance Armstrong and others by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, some have realized this issue is not dead. There are many ways to cheat in sports. It’s not just about steroids anymore. In some cases, the doping allegations involve a small medical staff who are working at providing blood transfusions, EPO, testosterone, masking agents, and other subtle ways to cheat the system.
I hope that the allegations against Lance are false, but it is already proven that this has been a recurring problem in cycling and baseball, among other popular American sports. It also goes to show that this problem is not going away any time soon. Let’s look at the core of the problem instead of the symptoms.
In American BeheMouth, I examine the core of the problem in my protagonist Jay. The core is ego and a desire to achieve greatness at any cost. It’s the American way. The problem is that we learned these lessons from the Greatest Generation who often worked for 50 years to make a great achievement. They struggled through the lean years and saved. However, they did not finance or leverage their way to success. There are no shortcuts to true success. The get rich schemes have a price. We need to look to real American heroes and not to those who would bankrupt our economy or sport in order to look good for a season.