American dominance of the universe is under siege. Major League baseballs? Made in Costa Rica. Levi’s jeans? Ninety-nine percent come from 35 countries, none of which were made in the U.S.A. Remember the Radio Flyer wagon in which you towed your little brother up the street before aiming him at the neighbor’s rosebushes? Made in China since 2004. But despair is not in the American DNA. We still make the world’s best fighter planes and fried chicken. We lead the world in daily consumption of both sugar and television, at a quarter pound and five hours, respectively. Beat that, China. Best of all, bass fishing accounts for an ever-larger part of those five hours.
I recently sat down and sampled episodes of Major League Fishing, the monster hawg currently revolutionizing the genre. MLF’s genius is the same one I’ve relied on all my life: a keen grasp (occasionally) of the obvious. Basically, its creators realized, bass TV has had everything bass-ackwards. Instead of trying to design a TV show to cover existing bass tournaments, why not design a tournament around TV? And what TV does best, as reality competitions like Survivor and The Apprentice have proved, is to show people at their worst, like when they’re trying to crush one another in competition, especially competition they don’t completely understand.
So that’s how MLF works. Contestants don’t know where they’re going until they arrive at the ramp. They get 15 minutes to scout. Then it’s go time, baby. Deadlines always help goose drama, so each day is divided into three periods. And a helpful MLF official in your boat tells you each time a fish is caught so you’ll know just how little time remains and how far back you are.
That’s already crazy pressure, right? But MLF—by the way, it’s pronounced M‑L‑F, not the word you might be tempted to say—keeps its foot on the gas, supersizing drama, suspense, and uncertainty at every opportunity. It’s the TV equivalent of Cool Ranch Doritos. Your house could burn down around you and you’d still be on that couch. I can…