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EDITORIAL: The Shootout, Potty-Training, And How Some Things Never Change

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Lake Of The Ozarks Shootout

I like to think I’m not very old yet. But with each passing year, I become more fond of clichés.

Having a fierce devotion to authenticity and originality, I used to hate them, thinking they were a sort of intellectual laziness. But as I live more, see more, endure more, I can’t help but think clichés are so oft repeated because they’re just so true. Either way, I find myself using clichés more frequently these days, and with only the tiniest amount of self-loathing for having done so. 

Here’s one: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

It’s certainly true for me. Every so often, I’ll have an epiphany about some habit or inclination or predisposition. “I’ve been doing this kind of thing my whole life,” I think to myself, in amazement. There’s a truth here: namely, that a person’s roots will always contextualize their life: there are common threads that run along the course of our lives, following every twist and turn.

Such can be true for an institution too, like the Shootout. Now celebrating its 30th birthday, the Shootout is the largest boat racing event, the largest fundraising event—and really the largest event, period—at Lake of the Ozarks. Back in 1989, if those guys starting a “who’s the fastest” boat race in central Missouri could have peered three decades into the future, surely they would have been astonished at what the Shootout would become. In many ways, the race is utterly different now. The fastest boats then were hitting speeds in the double-digits, with very few topping 100 mph. Now we come to the Shootout expecting to see the fastest boat hit 200+ mph. The early Shootout was further downstream, at the 21 Mile Marker. Its former home, Shooters, is gone—now just a “remember when” for people who’ve been coming to the Lake for years. There’s an entire promotional arm for the Shootout now, and a one-of-a-kind, 256-page magazine devoted to the race… those things would have felt like pipe dreams for central-Missouri boat racers in the late-80s.

And yet, there are common threads that have followed the Shootout through the decades. It is, after all, still a boat race, run in the same format that it always was: one boat at a time, and we see who’s the fastest. And the Shootout’s charitable roots go deep; in fact, the event was focused on funding local fire districts for many years. It was even run by the fire districts until it moved to Captain Ron’s over a decade ago. This year, 100,000 people will show up to watch the boats race, and countless others will tune-in on television, radio, and the Internet. And the event will doubtless raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities and fire districts; it raised $200,000 in 2017, and all indications are things will only be better this year. Charity and boat racing. Those are the roots of the Shootout: they’ve been there since the earliest days, and they still define the event in 2018.

I’m 34 years old. The first Shootout happened when I was potty-training. Now it’s my turn to hear my children shout “I’M DOOONE!” from the bathroom: in fact, the same bathroom in the same house with the same view of Bagnell Dam, where my father was potty-trained some 60 years ago, long before there was any Shootout. In this old house—just as with this 30-year-old boat race—the names and faces change, and things sure seem to move a heck of a lot faster than they used to. But the roots remain. And that is as it should be.

Happy 30th birthday to the Shootout, and cheers to all who’ve made it great over the years, while holding fast to its roots.


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