If You’re A Celeb…Get Yourself An Outdoor Show

What is it with all the celebrities these days becoming outdoor show hosts?   Take, for instance, Wally Dallenbach, an accomplished NASCAR driver and current NBC commentator for the Nextel Cup Circuit.   Makes perfect sense that he would use that expertise learned behind the wheel to add color to the weekly stock car races being broadcast…but are we really that smitten with his communication talents that we also must accompany him to Africa shooting cape buffalo on his new cable series?

Same goes for hall of fame sports players like Larry Csonka.   Without a doubt the guy had a storied career as a running back in the NFL leading his team on a history-making winning streak that hasn’t been broken in 34 years.   Or even Kent Hrbek who was a two-time World Series winning first baseman for the Minnesota Twins.   Indeed, another great athlete who made a name for himself playing spectator sports…but what qualifies either of these guys to be hosts on an outdoors show?

Then, of course, you have numerous outdoor product companies such as Realtree, Mossy Oak, Browning and many others that have programming serving more like one big infomercial for their product lineup.   Or big retailers like Cabela’s and Gander Mountain not wanting to be left out of the action.   Do you find the explosion of outdoor television choices to be a bit too much like I do?

At least for the companies I’ve mentioned their involvement in producing an outdoors show can be explained by one word — branding.   If you’re not familiar with the marketing concept, essentially branding is burning your company or product into the minds of potential customers.   What better way to do this than to have a weekly TV show that “reminds” customers where to get the best products for their next adventure.

So, for the sake of marketing I suppose we must forgive these big companies for advertising in this new way.   Besides, many of these successful companies have so much money to burn for promotion that some of them have a hard time knowing how best to spend it.   If you think I’m joking you better think again.   Some outdoor companies are so affluent they can recklessly spend their fortune with much the same disregard as a lotto jackpot winner might do with their mega-millions.

But let’s get back on point here with this post by directing it at the big-name personalities who must each have a Texas-sized ego.   Even though I didn’t enjoy watching “Zonk” punish my Minnesota Vikings at the time in Super Bowl VII…hey, you have to give the guy his due.   He was one hell of a running back.   In that era Csonka was unstoppable, perhaps at least to some degree, he was the prototypical running back who proved that “the big game” can be won by a solid running attack.

Now in spite of all Csonka’s football accomplishments…why should the likes of a past football star, or a baseball player or even a race car driver be hosting some outdoors show on TV?   Is it for their equally vast knowledge of hunting or fishing?   I doubt it.   Is it for their captivating on-camera presence that commands a large viewership?   Heck no.   Maybe it’s for their ease in getting sponsorship…because sponsors like to tie in their products with famous people (past or present)?   Well maybe.

My hunch is we see these celebrities from various walks of life make the quantum leap into the outdoor TV show host role because we let them get away with it.   We watch the damn shows not because they are well produced…but more likely because these celebrity hosts have influence on guests that other shows typically just don’t have.   You might also say there’s a certain novelty in watching a guy you’re familiar with driving a stock car to be holding a rifle to his shoulder putting the cross-hairs on some African game animal.

Unfortunately, most of these TV shows just don’t interest me.   Truth is I believe most of these celebrities would be hunting, fishing or enjoying this relaxed lifestyle without a film crew following them to document it.   I sometimes wonder, too, if by hosting an outdoors show if this doesn’t subconsciously relieve some of the guilt they might feel for living a lifestyle that most people only dream of living.   Let’s face it…they will typically go on more exciting trips in one season of shows than 99% of the sportsmen I know could afford to go on during their entire lifetime.

I’m not jealous.   Really, I’m not.   When a celebrity uses their notoriety and fame…then brings it into my world of enjoying the outdoors I must question their intentions.   Are they doing it because they can’t get enough of the so-called spotlight?   Now that their days of being a sports icon are in the rear view mirror, do they feel the need to establish themselves in some other way for the public’s eye to continue the attention?

When I turn on a quality outdoor TV program I expect to see skilled communicators broadcasting a well-researched, informative show.   I want the program host to earn his credibility by being honest and outdoors savvy thanks to much experience in the field.   I don’t particularly care if the show’s host rubs elbows with this famous person or that one…in fact, too much of that nonsense can be a big turn-off.   I do care, however, that the host is sincere—the sort of person you would like to have in your own hunting or fishing camp.

Maybe I’m alone in the feeling that celebrities in the fields of sports, music, entertainment, etc. should stick to those fields and not try to automatically be “important” in their actions outdoors, as well.   I think it’s great that many celebrities are hunters and anglers…that’s not my point.   I’m instantly turned off when they take their celebrity status and continue to rub it in my face by acting as some big outdoors show host.

To me, when a celebrity who gains their notoriety outside the hunting and fishing circles comes in and expects me to continue that high level of respect…it only cheapens their once unique value as a person.   Indeed, I’m glad to know these guys like to hunt and fish…but I sure wish most of them would just leave it at that without trying to exploit their popularity any further.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

Here’s One List You Don’t Want To Make

The past three or four days have been interesting, to say the least.   On the final day of my most recent fishing trip I called home to learn that a storm inflicting damage on a portion of southern Minnesota indeed personally touched my life.   The damage was due to hail, roughly the size of a baseball, pummeling my farm and resulting in damage to all of the buildings and any vehicles that were left outside.

Of particular disappointment was to my house which loyal blog readers will know is new after last summer.   In fact, it wasn’t until last October when I finally moved into the new house after a long summer during 2005 of construction and related headaches.   Now, the house is totaled (on the outside) requiring a new roof, all new siding and gutters after only about 10 months since they were first put on.   Yea, kind of a bummer, if you don’t mind me saying so.

After last summer making one of the worst decisions in my life by hiring the wrong building contractor to complete my housing project, I vowed never again to make the mistake of failing to check out the business aptitude as well as the overall ability of a contractor to treat me fair and to complete the job right.   Indeed, I’ve learned a lesson the hard way that the decisions you make in choosing a building contractor are results that you must live with for many years — literally!

Not being one to dwell on those past mistakes, I thought this time around I am going to more thoroughly check out any skilled labor that I might ultimately choose to work on my now new house project.   The storm, you might say, has given me another chance to this time make the right choices in finding the ideal people to best serve my housing interests.   So you begin by talking to friends and asking around…you know, everybody seems to have ideas on who you should use to get the job done.

So two days ago, on the recommendation of a friend, this contractor shows up looking to bid on my project and prove his worthiness.   I must admit I’m leery…even downright skeptical whether or not he’s the right choice.   Then we strike up a conversation about hunting.   Seems he’s a big hunter…loves to hunt.   In fact, he told me he could not wait to get home that day just to spend some time outside shooting the bow.   Slowly I’m warming up to the guy…figure he’s one of us.   Hell, I’d much rather do business with a sportsman who shares similar outdoor interests as I do.   I figure…somebody who connects in such a manner with me is bound to treat me fair as one would only expect from another outdoors brother.

Well…I was wrong.   Just when I was about to give the guy the benefit of the doubt I discovered a dark little secret about his past.   A secret that I must say absolutely killed the deal.   I typed his name and home-town into Google and this little secret practically jumped out at me…begging me to take heed.   You see, what I had found was this new prospective building contractor on a dirty list kept by several different state game agencies.   On this particular list from my home state of Minnesota I found the name of the contractor hoping to do work on my house.   That’s right, a big-game law violator who still has several more years of suspension on his hunting privileges.   In other words, in Minnesota, as well as in several cooperating states, this guy cannot legally hunt big game this season or for several more seasons to come.   His past actions and subsequent court conviction is right there in plain sight for the public to view.

Now quite honestly up until that point I did not know such a list even existed.   What a great tool.   Here I am doing a Google search (the poor man’s background check) on a name and address when I find the list of fish and game violators…and that’s how it should be.   Our fish and game law violators who have lost their privileges because of their flagrant actions should be identified for public scrutiny.   When your name inauspiciously lands on such a list it should become fodder for folks attempting to decipher your character.

Needless to say this guy’s business card got promptly tossed in the waste can upon learning of his game conviction.   Quite frankly I didn’t need to research any further…if you hold yourself out to me as a sportsman and the records clearly show something different…all credibility is instantly gone.   Kaput!

But what still concerns me is this guy’s remark that he had to go home to practice with his bow.   Is he planning to hunt this fall?   Is he perhaps planning to illegally hunt in Minnesota or one of the other states that also recognizes his suspended big game license?   Suddenly my interest in the contractor rests more on his upcoming hunting adventures rather than any work he might be expecting to do on my house.

Certainly he doesn’t know I’ve seen his name on the game violator list.   He doesn’t realize his chances to do any work for me have all but disappeared thanks to his apparent poor behavior afield.   He also doesn’t know I will do whatever is necessary to cooperate with his local conservation officer should I learn of any future illegal plans from our next conversation.

Yup, I’ve learned that choosing the wrong construction contractor can be a big headache if the necessary care isn’t used to filter out the “bad eggs” found throughout the profession.   Conversely, it might soon become a learning lesson for one particular contractor who has a demonstrated history of past game violations if it turns out he didn’t use greater care in choosing the right potential customer.   Truth is…if a person holds themselves out to me as a sportsman then their actions better reinforce the words…or this time they just might end up being the ones to pay the consequences.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

Kids + Fishing Poles + Dock On Lake = FUN!!!

I’ve been on vacation this past week with great intentions of blogging remotely with my laptop…but a funny thing sometimes happens when you go on vacation.   Suddenly exchanging the fishing pole for the computer doesn’t seem at all like a fair trade off.   This is especially true when you blog for fun and their are no deadlines for story material staring you in the face, as is often the case when you write professionally for some publication.

And so it was I found myself in Northern Minnesota on one of my favorite lakes.   Just me, my family, a few in-laws and some close friends.   Wasting the better portion of a week doing anything we damn well pleased and nothing we didn’t care to do.   For me, it was a relaxing week spent before the busy rush of the fall season begins in just a few weeks.   It was my time to fish as much as I wanted to and be downright lazy during the precious few other times.

The unique thing about this trip was the fact that I was spending time with my old hunting and fishing pal, Mitch, in Northern Minnesota again.   It had been probably 13 or 14 years since we last were together in this region enjoying these sort of outdoor activities.   Life gets busy and life takes on many changes (we’re both married now since last vacationing together) as a result.   Yet, it didn’t take long for both of us to rekindle the outdoor bonds that we had once so fondly shared many, many countless times over.


Ironically for me, many of these memories were “stirred” not by what Mitch and I experienced first-hand by fishing together, but rather how our children interacted with each other in developing their interest in the outdoors.   Hour and hour went by while Mitch’s boy Matthew and my Stepson Luke honed their fishing knowledge together casting for fish off the dock.   Do I dare say that watching their enthusiasm build as budding piscatorial participants was almost as much fun as actually “wetting a line” myself?   Well, it’s true.   Even though I did my fair share of fishing during the week my fishing passion paled in comparison to what these two new anglers exhibited.

In a weird sort of way I was re-living my friendship with Mitch vicariously through the eyes of our 9–year old children.   It has been over 30 years ago since I found any great pleasure in fishing off of a dock…but just one glance at these kids reminded me again just how important that experience once was.   Indeed, it is during times like this fishing from a dock where the fishing bug bites you and changes your life forever.   A whole new world just waiting to be explored is only a cast away and as a youth fishing from a dock no other non-electronic experience could be nearly as captivating for a kid.

It is casting endlessly hour after hour from the dock where some very important life lessons are learned—particularly if you want to someday become a sportsman.   To these kids it didn’t really matter if the fish being caught were small perch, sunnies or even crappies.   Of course kids take an interest in knowing what species of fish are being caught…but to these kids what was truly important was the action itself.   The fact that every so often before their patience grew thin they would catch another fish…that’s what mattered.   What truly was important to them was participating in the act of catching fish—any kind of fish.Perch

As both Mitch and I watched these kids participating in this age-old dock ritual we couldn’t help but think back to our own childhoods relating similar experiences.   Truth is, often times when we were younger the only fishing experience available was from a dock.   Our parents didn’t have the luxury of a boat…hell, we were just thankful when we were provided a dock in which to fish from.

As the years grew on we both graduated from fishing from the dock as so many other anglers do.   Please understand I am not dissing fishing from shore…but when you take the big step and become spoiled by fishing from a boat it does have a definite way of changing things.   Eventually dock fishing is viewed about as glamorously as is kissing your sister.   There’s a certain stigma in many sportsman’s minds that you don’t want to be caught doing either activity.

So it only stood to reason when Mitch and I asked the kids to get ready to go out and fish in the boat that we would get turned down.   That’s right…both kids had determined that fishing from the dock was where all the action was.   Made no difference if the likelihood of catching more popular game fish was found by fishing from a boat.   Simply put…these kids wanted to catch fish and at this age the type—and even to some extent—the size didn’t really matter.

Truly every kid should have an opportunity to fish from a dock at some point in their life.   Fact is, way too many kids are not provided this opportunity.   Oh, sure, there are frustrations that develop when a tangled or twisted line occurs…but those are the type of experiences we all need to go through in life to become better sportsmen and to further develop the life-long angling interest.

Fishing isn’t always easy.   Fishing can at times be very boring and taxing on our attention span.   Heck, fishing can even be aggravating when you lose the “big one” or experiencing equipment problems putting a damper on the fun you’re trying to experience.   Still, when you spend a week watching two very enthusiastic young kids fishing from a dock and doing so with a seemingly relentless passion…it does somehow put a smile on your face.   Moreover, it also helps to refocus your perspective on how you, too, should again view the sport of fishing.

Why is it that sometimes the older we all get the more demanding and complicated our expectations often become about the outdoors?   I guess sometimes it takes watching a kid enjoying the outdoors to help bring things back to their proper clarity for us older, more “seasoned” adults.

Not only will you pass along the passion of the outdoors to a future generation by providing the outdoor opportunity, but in the process you also tend to reclaim a bit of your youth no matter what the outdoor pursuit might be.   Indeed, fishing from the dock can be fun for all ages even when you choose to live the experience only through the eyes of a future sportsman.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.