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Charlie Hatton
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Dinner’s on Him Tonight — Who Wants Sushi?

So, I was just flipping channels over to ESPN, waiting for Baseball Tonight to start, and I accidentally caught quite the spectacle, just before my show came on. And I have to admit, I also got a bit of a surprise.

Apparently, there’s a professional fishing organization out there somewhere. I’m not sure where they’re headquartered, exactly, but if I had to venture a guess, I’d say it’s somewhere in the southeastern US. That seems to be where a lot of the ‘standing around on a rickety boat getting drunk’ takes place. I mean, ‘fishing. Where the fishing takes place. Anyway, that’s not the surprise.

(After all, plenty of other ‘fat old guy sports’ have pro leagues, too — bowling, golf, even eating. Look for the North American Professional Farters League, coming soon to a nostril near you.)

Anyway, this league thingy is called ‘BassMasters’ — again, I’m no expert, but I’d wager that they’re probably out there fishing for bass, in between the Bud-guzzling and crotch-scratching. And that choice of species isn’t terribly shocking, I suppose. I don’t know much about fishing, certainly, but one of the first fishy types that comes to my mind — which usually only happens when I’m looking at a menu — is bass. I might raise an eyebrow if there was a professional carp fishing league, or pros out there angling for angelfish, or mermaids, or sea monkeys, or some shit like that, but not bass, particularly. So that’s not the surprise, either.

After watching for a couple of minutes, it was clear that I’d stumbled into some sort of ceremony being performed by this strange tribe. Apparently, this weekend marked the annual ‘BassMasters Classic’ event, where many of their bravest, um… ‘warriors‘ battle with fish to decide who among them gets to…uh, sit in this boat that they have onstage. I guess this was their ‘Super Bowl of Slimy Bass’, if you will. The ‘Grand Slam of Gills’, perhaps. Would you believe the ‘Tour de Fish’? It was all a bit surreal, actually. But not terribly unexpected. What’s the point of having a pro tour if you don’t have a championship, right? So that wasn’t the surprise.

As I sat, transfixed by the oddly redneck pomp, I saw more of the spectacle. The contestants pulled out their stinky bags of fish, flopped those scaly monsters into clear plastic boxes, and weighed them out. Meanwhile, a silver-tongued rascal of an emcee rallied the fishermen, and the crowd, and the fans at home to cheer and hoot and scream. At one point, I think he tried to get the fish to do ‘the wave’. Clearly, he’s an excitable fellow. Again, not surprising. Many fishermen are loud, unstable, belchy sorts — if my uncles and grandfather are any indication, anyway. Let’s move on.

So, finally, they reached the end — the fishies were measured, the scores were updated, and the totals were tallied. A few shoes had to be removed, of course, so there would be enough toes available to finish the ciphering. But in the end, I think they got it right, and crowned their new king. And that’s the surprising thing, finally.

You see, I was not expecting the winner to pull it off and take the title. Why? Was it because the ‘bass handicappers’ — if such beasties exist — told us he was an underdog? No. Was it because he didn’t have the ‘look’ of a champion? No — all of the people involved in this shindig were in long shorts, logo shirts, trucker hats, and six layers of bass spoo. This guy was as ‘championy’ as any of the others, given the circumstances. No, it wasn’t any of that. It was his name.

Now, tell me this, before I give away the ending — what would you expect the first name of a ‘bass fishing champion’ to be? Me, I’d have guessed ‘Bubba’. Or maybe ‘Lunkhead’. Or ‘Skeeter’, or ‘Jeb’, or even ‘Bertha Sue’. But today’s champion has none of those names. Not even close. No, sir — today, after three full days of fish-fiddling foolishness, the 2004 BassMaster Classic champion was crowned, and his friends call him: Takahiro.

And that, I didn’t expect.

But I have to say, I like it. Takahiro Omori, that soon-to-be-famous (if he isn’t already) Japanese angler, fish-slapped all those good ole boys down south, and took home the grand poobah of the putt-putt boat world. That’s gotta sting some people like a hook in the gullet. And tough noogies to them.

Welcome again, folks, to the level global playing field. Let’s all repeat the mantra: ‘Anybody, from anywhere, can do anything, anytime.‘ We invented baseball in the US, and now Japan often kicks our ass in Little League matchups. The Scots come up with golf, and an American — with African and Asian roots — wiped his spikes with the rest of the field for a few years. Now, a guy from Fiji has taken over. Kenyans regularly win the races that take their name from a legendary town in Greece, an American has won the biggest bicycle race in France every time this millennium, and a skinny little kid from Japan regularly schools Americans in the one sport where you’d think we’d own the world — eating.

And now, there’s a Takahiro at the top of the bass heap. Kudos to you, Tak. Enjoy your time in the sun. And maybe next year, they’ll crown a ‘Miguel’, or a ‘Dat’, or a ‘Tariq’. Or hell, even a ‘Zeke’, as usual. Anybody’s good. Just so long as everyone remembers — it could be anybody. Anybody at all.

Permalink  |  3 Comments

3 Responses to “Dinner’s on Him Tonight — Who Wants Sushi?”

  1. Mike says:

    First of all, I can’t believe people consider this a “sport”. Doesn’t there have to be two teams, or opposing sides to be considered a sport? How do the bass oppose the men? Maybe if it were pirranah, or shark not that would be a sport.

    Second, why not Takahiro…The japanese (I believe he’s japanese anyway) have been fishing a lot longer that we have.

  2. Buzz says:

    Almost exactly 13 years ago, my fiance and I drove down to Baltimore, Maryland to watch the BassMaster Classic. We had a fantastic time! There was the greatest boat show I’ve ever been to, we got to meet our most favoritist fisherman, Hank Parker (don’t make fun of that which you do not undertand), and yes, we sat and cheered when they weighed their fish at the weigh-ins after each day’s fishing.

    Oh, and we also eloped that weekend. We’ve been happily married ever since.

    I, for one, LOVE the BassMaster Classic.

  3. Monkey says:

    BassMaster, eh?

    You kiss your mother with that mouth?

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