Biff America: Scandals and ice holes
The 2004 North American Professional Ice Fishing Tour was a multi-state event featuring America’s most successful and popular ice fishermen.
Ice athletes — with wives, sponsors and groupies in tow — toured the nation in a multi-event, winner take all, pro ice fishing derby.
The tour’s kickoff was held on Maine’s Mattaseunk Lake followed by a twilight double header on Pemigewasset Lake in New Hampshire.
The opening event was won by Frank Fornortner from Dinkytown, Minnesota. He was one of the bachelors on the tour — a ladies’ favorite — known for his yodeling and risqué polka lyrics. Fornortner attributes his early season success to an off-season fitness program which included four-wheeling and bowling.
From New England, the tour headed west. As is the case with any high pressure and physically demanding competition, the travel and stress can take its toll; both on the human body as well as on marriages and relationships.
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Newt Anderson put it best when he said, “Some dark thoughts can go through a man’s head when he stares into an ice hole all day.”
Nerves were frayed when the tour reached Pug Hole Lake up in northern Minnesota. Seems the night before, Lars Anderson borrowed Donny Colehour’s girlfriend, Bonny, and his StrikeMaster Lithium 40V ice auger. The sentiment on the tour was that Bonny had a right to choose with whom she shares an ice shanty, but a man should never lay hands on another man’s auger.
If you haven’t guessed by now, the 2004 North American Professional Ice Fishing Tour was a figment of my imagination.
In truth, it was also a figment of my radio partner Jon’s and a talented voice actor named Tiger’s, imaginations.
Jon and I hosted a Denver radio show on a few different stations over several years. We would cover winter and summer recreation, report on weather, ski and road conditions, interview guests and sometimes just make stuff up.
The 2004 North American Professional Ice Fishing Tour was one such made up event. Beginning in the fall, through mid-winter, we would invent the various stops on the tour and the results of those fictitious competitions.
As the tour progressed the bits got more and more outlandish and unbelievable. Tiger had a perfect Midwestern accent and would create bizarre intrigue, backstories, personalities and scandals.
“James Junkelmixer, a fisherman from Bemidji, is definitely the tour’s sex symbol with a Mick Jagger-like popularity, When he enters a bait shop, even the most proper lady ’fishermen’ had a hard time keeping their mukluks on.”
A few times over the season, I was getting concerned that we were being too preposterous. I knew anyone listening realized it was a spoof, but I was afraid we were pushing past the point of humor bordering on silly.
The winter season was winding down so we decided to end the pro tour on the Dillon Reservoir right here in Colorado. We made a big deal about the ice and how athletes would be fishing wearing oxygen tanks and using special bait to catch high-altitude fish. We closed the show promising results of the competition when we returned the following week.
The next week we found several nasty emails in our inbox. Seems more than a few folks were hiking around the shores of the Dillon Reservoir hoping to watch the competition.
I felt awful. I had no idea that anyone would have believed the event was for real. I mean, it was all so far-fetched and farcical. Despite that, perhaps because we were on the radio, some folks assumed it was legit. I had to wonder, since the show was heard in several states, how many folks had we misled over the weeks?
I can’t remember if we broke the news that the ice fishing tour was a joke or not. I think we might have suggested that the tour was canceled and lost its sponsorship due to allegations of widespread steroid use and blood doping. My thought was, I did not want to insult the listeners who were in on the joke by assuming we had to explain it to them, and contrarily, I didn’t want to insult the few poor souls who actually believed it by telling them we’d been pulling their legs for months.
I was truly sorry for those we inconvenienced. But the gag was unbelievable to a point of being ludicrous. I could not understand how anyone would take it at face value. In my ignorance, I overlooked an aspect of the human condition which seems even more evident in today’s time. For some, “truth” is simply something they are told, and for all, conviction without question is as enlightening as staring into an empty ice hole…
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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