Will crowds turn out for steroid-free ice fishing?
Ice fishing season is almost here, but don’t expect the speed, strength, and agility of previous years. A few months ago New York Times writer James Card covered ice fishing’s “long shot bid to bring their lonely pursuit to the Olympics.” Staring at a hole in the ice now joins darts and miniature golf as drunken pursuits with Olympic ambitions.
There are so many different directions to go with this story: The Olympic downhill slide from Grecian war games to things people do on weekends; what constitutes a sport; who would win in a dream bout between ice fishing legend Ollie “Big Norge” Lunderson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
What we know for certain, though, is that Lunderson will never face Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, or whatever portion of Barry Bonds’s head safely fits on an icy lake. In its bid for Olympic glory, ice fishing has succumbed to drug testing.
“We do not test for beer because then everyone would fail,” Card quotes U.S. Freshwater Fishing Federation Chairman Joel McDearmon as saying. This raises the question: There’s a U.S. Freshwater Fishing Federation? Anyway, the good news is that these fine athletes won’t have to give up boozing while competing like those poor Olympic softball players did. But the question remains whether television audiences will tune into ice fishing if the competitors aren’t juiced up.
We’ve come to expect a certain amount of action as fans of the sport. It has come so far from the early days of smash mouth ice fishing to the spectacle that we watch today, what with the larger than life ‘roid heads able to carry as many as five cases of beer onto the ice at a time. Do we really want things to go back to the way they were just for a shot at the Olympics? Operating an Ice Auger is serious business.
And think of the endorsement deals. Will Big Burt Festerman still be the official spokesman for the Marmooska Gem Ice Lure if he loses his chemically enhanced guns? Will the ladies still buy millions of “Hunks Of Ice” calendars each year? The center cannot hold, as W.B. Yeats said when officials tried to ban laudanum from competitive gardening.
Sure, it’s easy to point fingers at the Bash Brothers or Lance Armstrong for bringing such scrutiny to professional sports, but it’s time we accept a little responsibility ourselves. If we didn’t hold ice fishermen up as such paragons of perfection perhaps they wouldn’t feel pressure to eat the endocrine glands of jungle cats just so that they can catch a perch in sub-zero temperatures.
I for one am a staunch opponent of any sort of doping, no matter what sport: bowling, badminton, miniature golf, horse shoes, darts. Cheating is cheating, regardless of whether its pharmaceuticals or point shaving. Besides, have you read the labels on that stuff? You’re not supposed to take it with beer.
photo Jani Uusitalo/Flickr