Not much has changed since I wrote this column during the 1994 Winter Olympics. Norwegians still dominate most events, while Americans still win the occasional odd one. — LP
After two weeks of watching late-night Winter Olympics on TV, I dozed off during a commercial.
On the screen of a dream, things became more interesting. First came a Binford Tools commercial, a foxy blonde demonstrating a power ice auger. Then came a scene of 50,000 cheering people on a frozen lake. The camera zoomed in on a small clearing among the milling masses where Scott Hamilton, the former ice-skating star, was talking to Larry Dahlberg, the TV fishing-show star.
“Can Tim win gold in ice fishing for the U.S., Larry?”
“I don’t know, Scott. Thor Aagaard is tough and he’s good.”
“You have to give Tim credit for guts, Larry. Oh-oh. Here we go.”
Wildly waving Norwegian flags, the crowd roared as the home-town favorite, flanked by six helpers, leaped gracefully into the clearing. Seven feet tall, the Nordic giant was clad in black, from his dyed moose-hide boots and tights to his wolf-skin cap. The picture of the quintessential ice fisherman, his eyes were the blue of glaciers, his mouth a stoic slash.
A smattering of applause greeted the U.S. team, an inept-looking man followed by three young boys. The contestant’s outfit was Salvation Army, post-Mardi Gras. His chartreuse tights had holes in the knees. His cap was beaver, complete with head and tail, its head atop his head, its webbed feet on his shoulders. Stepping over the low barrier around the competition area, he caught a toe and fell on his face. Undaunted by the snickering crowd, he stood, grinned and said, “Hi, Mom!”
It was Tim Allen and his sons!
As I was wondering what the star of “Home Improvement” was doing in the Winter Olympics, the starter yelled, “Ready!”
Aagaard stood poised, muscles tense. Tim jerked frantically at the zipper on his gear bag. The starting buzzer buzzed.
The frenzied crowd chanted, “THOR! THOR! THOR! THOR!”
Allen’s kids yelled, “Go, Dad!”
“Thor knows he has the gold medal in the bag, Scott. Even though the rules allow power augers, he’s using a hand auger.”
“Look at him go, Larry. He’s halfway through already.”
“Tim isn’t even started, Scott. This doesn’t augur well for him.”
Tim finally got his zipper unstuck, heaved his oversized auger into a vertical position and yanked its starter rope. Nothing.
“Thor is through, Scott. Three feet of ice in three minutes, flat.”
“Look at that slush-skimming form, Larry. Note the slight bend in the right knee, the two-finger handle-hold, and the symmetry of the left hand and left leg. The judges like that.”
Finished with his skimming, Aagaard laid his scoop aside and picked up his rod. In moments, he was fishing, his ice-blue eyes intent on the tip of his rod.
“Look at Thor, Scott. In training, he has practiced sitting motionless for weeks and weeks, waiting for just one chance to execute the move that won him international fame, the back-handed triple-hookset.”
“I hope he gets a chance to do it, Larry. The judges will like that.”
“THOR! THOR! THOR! THOR!”
“Tim can’t seem to get started, Scott.”
“It doesn’t look good for him, Larry. I notice Thor is using a high-modulus, fast-taper, super-fragulated GLX thrumming rod, and he’s sitting on a 20-liter, featherweight, graphite-composition bucket. The judges pay attention to things like that.”
KAPOW! BRRRRRRAAP, BUDDA, BUDDA, BUDDA, BRRRRRRRRRRAAP! Blue flame roared from the exhaust pipes of Tim’s brutish Binford auger. The lake ice quivered like lutefisk.
“Tim drilled that hole in less than one second, Scott, and he’s starting another! That auger must be the 6-liter Hole Hog that Binford has been keeping under wraps. It sure is fast!”
BRRRRRRRRAAP! Another hole. BRRRRRRRRAAP! Another. BRRRRRRRRRAAP! And another.
The Norwegians, for once, were silent. Aagaard, who hadn’t so much as glanced in Tim’s direction, now glanced, obviously concerned.
“Thor should be catching fish, by now, Larry. If he doesn’t catch one soon, Tim will win on hole points.”
“He could, at that,” Scott. “With eight points per fish and only one point per hole, Thor put his hopes on his fish-catching ability.”
“Look, Larry! The score’s tied, and only seconds left on the clock! Tim is tired. Can he drill one more hole and win?”
“Oh-oh! His cap has fallen down over his face! He’s drilling blind!”
Over the rattle of the idling auger, Tim grunted a determined, “Arrrrrr,” and gave the Binford beast full throttle.
“Holy hake, Scott! Tim’s tights are tangled in his auger, and it’s running at top speed!”
BRRRRRRRRRRRAAAP! A chartreuse blur, Tim looked like a giant Spin-N-Glo in a gale. “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr!” he yelled.
“Go, Dad, Go!”
“The judges love this sort of artistry, Larry. They’ll give Tim bonus points for this.”
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.