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.