Just below the headline on the October 14, 2011 World Fishing Network blog post on the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, you’ll find a button labeled “Report Abuse.” The network, which broadcasts the PTTS, obviously didn’t pick up on the irony oozing from this one.
If it were only that easy. Just a few clicks, and the “abuse” that has become synonymous with the PTTS goes away. Tried it. Didn’t work.
The article is headlined “Behind the Scenes of PTTS: Controlled Chaos.” It is credited to Joe Mercurio, identified as “host of Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.” Back in October, writing this curious little PR yarn probably seemed like a great idea to someone at the PTTS and the cable TV outfit. Today it reads more like a guilty plea.
“Controlled chaos,” the author writes, is a term that has become overused. It’s a cliche, Mercurio says. Except when it comes to describing the PTTS. “Talk to someone about the Miller High Life Professional Tarpon Tournament series, however, and if you don’t hear that term, something’s wrong.” Yes, Joe, we agree. Something’s wrong.
With this joke, you don’t have to read to the end to get to the punchline. It’s right up front. “When the term ‘controlled chaos’ was coined,” Mercurio wrote, “the PTTS is what the originator had in mind.” Chaos is defined as (1) “Complete disorder; utter confusion.” (2) “A disorderly mass; a jumble.” Which is pretty much what the Florida Legislature was targeting when it did a little term coining of its own.
Our lawmakers came up with something they called “careless operation.” And they made it unlawful. “All operators are responsible for operating their vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner with regard for other vessel traffic.” And, of course, “anyone who operates a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property will be cited for reckless operation, a first-degree misdemeanor.” Strangely, there’s no exemption for operating a boat in a controlled “unreasonable and imprudent manner.” What were they thinking?
Perhaps Capt. Artie Price, who Mercurio notes is a “six-time Skeeter Team of the Year winner,” put it best. “There are some wild things going on out there,” Price said, adding “it’s one of the things that makes Boca Grande so much fun to fish.”
Back to you, Joe: “Picture 50 boats of varying styles jockeying for position without wrecking each other, around pods of tarpon … Oh yeah, don’t forget the non-tournament, weekend warrior trying for his shot at a huge silver king, right in the middle of it all.” Hey, as Price says, it’s what “makes Boca Grande so much fun to fish.” Just ask the family, out for a relaxing morning in the Pass, that finds itself suddenly caught “right in the middle of it all.” Hey kids, you having fun?
“Controlled chaos” is no longer in the tournament’s vocabulary. Either are “complete disorder” and “utter confusion” and “a disorderly mass.” Same with those “wild things going on out there.” You know, the stuff that once made Boca Grande Pass “so much fun to fish.” In Tallahassee, the people charged with law enforcement are scrambling to explain why, as all this “careless operation” was taking place within clear view, the PTTS was seemingly given a Get Out of Jail Free Card by the state.
The Lee and Charlotte county sheriff’s offices are empowered to enforce boating safety laws. Many deputies in both agencies are cross-sworn – they share jurisdiction when it comes to Boca Grande Pass. The FWC has shown it either can’t or isn’t willing to get the job done. And Mercurio has provided the world with evidence that there is clearly a job that needs doing.
Save The Tarpon Inc. sees no need for new laws. Those already on the books, if enforced, are more than sufficient. Accordingly, Save The Tarpon Inc. will be requesting that marine deputies from Lee, Charlotte or both counties be detailed to Boca Grande Pass during any future PTTS events to give local residents and the boating public assurance that existing law is, in fact, enforced as the legislature intended. You will be asked to add your voice when the time comes.
The legislature has an obvious and compelling interest in the enforcement of the laws it creates. It also has broad investigatory powers. Save The Tarpon Inc., with your assistance and support, will also be contacting local lawmakers with our shared concerns. Mercurio’s words will, of course, be Exhibit A.
When it comes to the PTTS, there has been no shortage of “chaos” on the water. It’s the “control” part that has been sorely missing. It’s time to click on that “abuse” button.