Each of them unveils his catch to the crowd and the cameras--and mentions his sponsors--and ESPN plays it for all it's worth, with interviews, pounding music, smoke machines.
After the Super Six have had their haul weighed, flares go off and M�tley Cr�e's Kickstart My Heart plays and streamers fall, but it is not Iaconelli holding a trophy over his head and envisioning his Nike contract. Ike finishes fifth--about 1.6 pounds behind VanDam, the first-place finisher--which, says Iaconelli, might as well be last because, when it comes to the Classic, people "only remember who wins."
As VanDam celebrates and the arena rocks, Iaconelli walks down a corridor in the bowels of the stadium. He holds his hands on his head like a winded runner, trying to catch his breath. He takes off his flame shirt, then puts it back on and forces a smile for a photograph with a couple of corporate bigwigs. His nose is red from being in the sun all day, his eyes heavy. "In hindsight I should have stayed in the Pittsburgh pool all day," he says. "The morning killed me. Didn't catch anything from 7 to 12. I needed to...." His voice trails off as he continues to walk away, a beaten man turning his back on another's coronation.
That night the anglers and media members and BASS staff gather at the bar in the lobby of the Westin. Swindle is near the door, drinking a longneck. VanDam is smiling. Reese's platinum hair is visible from afar. Nearly everyone is there. But not Iaconelli. For one night he can't sell it any longer, himself or the sport. So it is left to the rest of the BASS machine to convince us that this sport is for real and that we should care. As if on cue, from somewhere in the back of the bar, above the alcohol-fueled din, a voice can be heard. It shouts, "Hoo-ah!"
Read more about Mike Iaconelli and see a photo gallery from the 2005 Bassmaster Classic at SI.com/bassfishing.