January 27, 2006

Oh, why not.

Nick Coleman keeps writing 'em, so I may as well fisk 'em.

The worst news in Minnesota Thursday --judging by the top of the front page, where bad news usually goes -- was the imminent arrival of a bait shop at the Mall of America.

For Nick, that constitutes pretty much where he gets all his news which, if you know the Star-Tribune at all, is kinda sad. Besides that, for Nick, everything is bad news. He could read a story about how a truck hauling puppies crashed into an orphanage and that, miraculously, in addition to no injuries, every orphan ended up with a puppy, Nick would still no doubt find some way to heap scorn on the story.

I agree with the Star Tribune editors who decided to "play" the bait shop threat as the top bad news story of the day. This is grim stuff.

What's grim stuff? The column that's now underway? If so, yes, it is grim stuff.

Minnesota used to be the kind of place where you got your bait from freckle-faced kids who tore up their mom's flower garden and sold crawlers for 50 cents a dozen, or by wandering into a back room at a service station to scoop shiners out of a wash tub. I even wrote a story for this newspaper in 1981 about a guy who invented a Minnow machine that would dispense a cup of live minnows for a buck and a half.

Nick Coleman. He gets the story, so YOU don't have to! I don't know which is sadder; that he had to write such a story in his past, or that he remembers it with apparent pride. I had to write my fair share of fluff pieces starting out, and I do my best to forget about them.

All pretty much gone now. Along with a lot of the fish.

What Nick fails to mention, in Nick's mention-failing way, is that, in many places, fish populations are making a comeback.

Now we have plans for a 300,000-square-foot bait shop at the Mall of America and a limit of six walleyes, except where the limit is four, or two.

Anyone see a connection?

Just you, Nick. Just you.

You've heard of Big Tobacco. Now we have Big Bait, a Missouri-based big box sporting goods outfit called Bass Pro Shops, which may provide the anchor (so to speak) of phase II of the mall. And when I say Big Bait, I am talking a bait shop as large as 200 average homes that is part of a chain that grosses $1.6 billion a year.

They make money. They're EEEEEEEEEEIVLEEEEEE! By the way, there are major differences between a fishing pro shop and a bait shop. Ten points to those of you who can name five.

That is a lot of fatheads. And I don't just mean a variety of minnows.

If anyone can speak with authority about fatheads, it would be Nick Coleman.

A super-sized outdoors store is nothing new, of course. It's been almost eight years since Nebraska-based Cabela's moved into Minnesota with a 150,000-square-foot store in Owatonna.

Which, of course, begs the question: what the hell is he moaning about this one for? If Cabela's has been in Minnesota for eight years, and has been by all appearances a great success, what is this fathead complaining about?

Cabela has stores in East Grand Forks and Rogers, now, too. I visited the Owatonna store when it opened and found it very interesting, like visiting a religious shrine from a religion that was not mine.

Nick's idea of a cool store is an outlet that specializes in pictures of people scowling and looking displeased. I imagine that's kind of what his house probably looks like.

Don't worry. I am not going to go all vegan on you. I eat meat, I love walleye and I have shot a few whitetails who didn't know the password.

You go, girlfriend! *snap, snap*

But Cabela's was too much for me: There were so many dead animals on the walls that I kept my voice down and walked softly, as if I were in a temple of Thanatos, the god of death. To be complete, the place just needed a few human heads.

I wonder if Nick has ever visited a natural history museum in his life. Or, hell, the Minnesota Science Museum alone has more stuffed animals on display than Cabelas. I wonder if Nick walks with solemnity when he walks through those exhibits.

Now comes Bass Pro, nearly six football fields' worth of fishing poles and outdoors gear intended to make it easy for every computer-bound stock analyst in the state to imagine himself as an intrepid "sportsman" without ever having to stop off in Motley or Milaca in search of a crappie minnow.

That's your classic Nick Coleman "worst case scenario." He can write a huffy column bemoaning the possibility that Motley minnow sales could take a hit thanks to Bass Pro. This is just my own "Ryan Rhodes Knows Stuff" aside, but having fished using minnows, I've noticed that the minnow mortality rate, even when not in transit, seems pretty high. So, although I'd probably buy a pole and tackle from Bass Pro, I'd still opt to buy my minnows as close to my fishing destination as possible. Too much potential for minnow-related deaths and spillage en route.

I blame it on the creeping Bubba-fication of Minnesota, which includes NASCAR billboards, exploding turkey fryers and back-yard hot tubs.

Yup, if you enjoy fishing or hunting, you're a back-woods Bubba. It's statements like this that just make me want to biff Coleman like he's never been biffed in his life. And since when is a back-yard hot tub a symbol of Bubba-ism? It's this kind of double-standard that Nick excels at. He rails against stereotypes when they're applied to, say, illegal immigrants or the homeless, but then he'll turn around and say that people who live in New Ulm are beer hall lushes, or that if you enjoy hunting and fishing, you're a dimwitted NASCAR Bubba. Politicians are fat cats, except for when the politician is his little brother. Nick's such a sour, bitter man, and he's been sour and bitter for so many years, he doesn't even know why he's sour and bitter any more.

This is not how my friend Howard would have wanted it.

There. THAT should have been the lead sentence to this column. Hell, it should have been the headline. STOP THE PRESSES! Nick Coleman had a friend!

Howard was a neighbor when I lived in Rochester in the late 1970s, a retired mechanic who knew where the trout were in southeastern Minnesota and who had rigged up an electric cord to a metal rod with a wooden handle. When Howard plugged in his "Worm Finder" and jabbed the metal end into the ground, our feet would tingle and my hair (yes, I had some) would stand up. But something else happened, too: Stunned worms would leap from their underground lairs and roll drunkenly on the grass, making easy pickings on our way to a trout hole.

One wonders if Nick is also a proponent of, say, chucking a stick of dynamite into a lake and plucking the stunned fish into the boat when they bob to the surface. See, to me, if I were to define a Bubba, I'd think about it for a second and then say: "Well, if you create a machine, for the sole purpose of shocking worms out of the ground, you might be a Bubba." / Jeff Foxworthy off /

And I didn't know Nick used to live in Rochester. *shudder* I need a bath.

Now that was real outdoorsman-ship. I miss Howard. He wouldn't have been caught dead at a mall.

No, but he would probably have been caught dead when he upped the amperage on his worm shocker.

Posted by Ryan at January 27, 2006 07:11 PM | TrackBack

You know, one day he's going to write a good column and you'll be too busy thinking of how to fisk him to notice. Then the hand will be on the other foot!

Posted by: Simon at January 28, 2006 03:33 AM

Ryan, dude, this has nothing to do with anything but have you seen that show on Comedy Central, "Drawn Together"? I just watched the first episode on iTunes and A) laughed my ass off and B) immediately thought of you. Particularly during the part where the Disney princess and the Black chick with the tail were making out in the hot tub.

That's all. Now I'm gonna go look for my ass.

Posted by: Joshua at January 30, 2006 08:56 PM

Downloaded the episode last night, Josh. I'll watch it tonight. Are you getting my e-mails?

Posted by: Ryan at January 31, 2006 09:16 AM

I got one e-mail. Was there another one?

What'd you think of the ep?

Posted by: Joshua at February 1, 2006 04:34 AM

"I've got a mayonnaise momma on my licking hole."

That show crosses every line I know of. Which of course means it's funny as hell.

Not sure why you thought of me though. Hmmm.

Posted by: Ryan at February 2, 2006 11:44 AM
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