The Olympics are here, and for the next few weeks much of the country will be engrossed with watching competitions that for the most part only matter to us once every four years.
Picture big burly guys who are nimble in chest waders or knee boots watching synchronized swimming, followed by diving or – God forbid -- rhythmic gymnastics.
It’s not an outdoorsmen’s standard viewing fare, but once every four years, it occupies a place in our lives. Anything to root for the good old U.S. of A!
For the average outdoorsman, the Olympics have some glaring omissions. If part of this country can be interested in who wins Gold in badminton or table tennis, then surely even larger pastimes should find a place in the Olympics.
Despite having archery and shooting as staples of the Games, the rest of hunting and fishing should be able to find some sort of representation.
For instance, I understand swimming (with or without chest waders). You have a contest where athletes swim from point A to point B and the fastest gets the Gold, which is pretty much Michael Phelps every time. Speed vs. speed is a pretty good measurement.
But synchronized swimming? It may be pretty and believe me no big burly guy is ever going to complain about women in swimsuits doing anything. But as a sport, I believe I could come up with a few examples that would work better for the huge crowd that enjoys Outdoor Channel.
Fishing would be at the top of the list. Looking through the bios of the athletes (and there are thousands of them from every corner of the world) only about 10 percent of them have a completed list of hobbies, of those, about 10 percent note fishing or hunting as their hobby.
That goes for the canoeist from Belarus, with a name most of us could never pronounce, who lives in what is still considered one of the most “un-free” countries in Europe, to the pretty Anastasiia Baryshnikova of the Russian Federation, who can kick some butt in Judo or double as a model, but loves to fish.
While having a Bassmaster or Major League Fishing event would certainly play into the Americans hands, there are other ways to go for the gold without obviously tipping the favor to the free world.
Casting competitions are easy to see -- longest or most accurate wins.
But how about synchronized casting? Nah.
If you really wanted to get down to basics, have a race up a rocky cliff, wearing boots and carrying a tackle box to mimic what some of us have done when a cottonmouth invaded our favorite fishing hole.
In the same vein, have a bear race. You know the old hunting story that if you encounter a bear, you don’t have to outrun it, you just have to outrun your buddy.
It would be interesting to see how many big burly guys could out-run Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest sprinter from Jamaica. Of course we’d even the field, loading them down with backpacks, a rifle and heavy boots to navigate treacherous terrain and have a real bear looking at them like a rabbit at a greyhound race.
But we could open up the games in so many more ways:
The Tree-Stand Climb: Let’s see how many of these international athletes could strap a climber to knotty oak and get 25 feet in the air in under three minutes.
The Whitetail drag: Anyone who has had to drag a deer (trophy or otherwise) from the woods understands the stamina, strength and sweat (even on the coldest days) it takes to complete that task. There have been times when I deserved a gold medal for that Herculean feat.
The Deer Clean and Jerk: Every four years we watch big burly eastern Europeans jerk more than 500 pounds off the floor and extend their arms. Let’s see how quick they can get a deer on a gambrel, lifted up a tree, then for style points jerk the skin off and quarter a deer.
The Cripple Chase: Instead of the Steeple Chase, the Cripple Chase could be competed in any marsh, rice field or whatever. Contestants have to wear chest waders and run down a duck or other beast in the mud.
The Decoy Throw: I’ve never in my life had to throw a discus or a shot put, but I’ve heaved a ton of decoys over the years. It takes skill (not really) but what is the skill at tossing a big metal ball?
Synchronized Decoy Throwing/Rhythmic Decoy Throwing: If you can have synchronized swimming, let’s get some good old boys competing in some synchronized decoy tossing. Points are awarded on distance and patterns of spreads. Add the rhythm part and they have to do it in time to a Hank Williams Jr. song.
The Bust-A-Covey Shoot: I like to shoot, whether it’s trap or skeet (both already a part of the Games) or target shooting (also a part). There is a definite skill at hitting your mark almost every time, even if you get the chance to take your time and yell “pull” before you actually have to squeeze the trigger. Let’s try that same game with a covey of quail, at your toes, busting in a fashion that if they were shot puts they would come close to emasculating you.
Diving/Noodling: I like the diving competitions, but once they hit the water they are missing out on the best part. I’d like to see some rednecks in this new competition, dive, hit the water and then come up with a hand-grabbed catfish.
Jon-Boat Sculling: Since 2008, canoeing and kayaking have been a part of the Games. What about sculling? Actually sitting in front of a boat with 3-foot paddle and getting from Point A to Point B. I know some old-timers who could run down Usain Bolt.
Trailer-Backing: There is simply no more useful skill than being able to back a trailer (boat, ATV or otherwise) into a tight spot. This could expand to the Winter Oympics and be done on an icy ramp.
Yep, the Olympics are starting. We will soon be watching the world compete in some sports we just don’t understand, hoping that women’s beach volleyball will soon come on, while really wishing there was a place to measure the hard skills of our world.