‘Finding Bigfoot’ is exercise in flu-tility

There’s a new sport sweeping the nation, if you consider bigfooting a sport. Most of us would call it hiking.

But do it in the woods, at night, with a camera, thermal-imaging equipment and a big imagination, and it’s called bigfooting. It’s a lot like snipe-hunting, only with bigger snipe. I suppose the only way to win is to bag a bigfoot, and so far no one has ever won at this wild game.

The Sasquatch craze is the result of the latest hit reality TV show “Finding Bigfoot” on the Animal Planet. Never mind that no actual bigfoot has ever been documented; apparently, it’s an animal with its own show. At least according to “Finding Bigfoot,” which features four fearless bigfooters who cross the country looking for this elusive creature.

I recently had the misfortune of coming down with the flu over the holidays during a “Finding Bigfoot” marathon. Blame it on the illness, medication or boredom, but I couldn’t stop watching this foursome going Squatching. It’s sort of like watching a train wreck, except there’s no train and it never actually wrecks.

I couldn’t help but think they all seem very familiar for some reason … that’s it. The leader of the group, Matt Moneymaker, who is the same guy who won that big poker tournament years ago and spent his fortune chasing bigfoot. He’s got all this high-tech equipment designed to find bigfoot but it all seems to be made by Acme.

And that’s not the only cartoon character connection to the show. He is joined by two meddling kids from the Scooby Doo gang – Velma, who now goes by Ranae, and Shaggy, now known as Bobo. It seems all those years of eating Scooby Snacks and cheeseburgers have caught up with him. The other guy is Cliff, fitting since he often takes logical leaps off them.

Together they go out in the woods and split up, a la Scooby Doo, and yell back and forth to one another. Apparently that’s the best way to catch a bigfoot, although how could you really tell? Until someone brings one of the hairy beasts in for a sit-down interview with Oprah and a DNA sample that proves he’s not a dude running around in the woods wearing an ape suit.

Hunting every other kind of animal on the planet involves being stelth; camos and quiet are the standard operating procedures. But when hunting bigfoot, the hoarse foursome believes its best to make as much noise as possible, employing fireworks, sirens and rave lights to bring in a big one. It seems Sasquatch likes to party.

Or not, as the show proves every week. The hunters get teased just enough to try it again next episode – a growl in the darkness, a tree knock, someone saying they saw, heard or smelled something bigfootish. How they know what that is I still haven’t figured out, but three of the four are convinced they were this close to catching one.

Like Velma, Ranae is the lone cynic. She needs scientific data or visual evidence before she buys into the bigfoot craze and is treated like an infidel by her peers. I expect her to call them out at some point: “Hey, I’m not the crazy one here.” But the other three beat her down with all kinds of bigfoot nonsense.

Bobo is by far the most far-fetched of the four (he claims bigfoots go under water and pluck ducks by their webbed feet) but all three guys are hook, line and sinker sold on Sasquatch. If a leaf hits the ground in a forest then Matt automatically assumes a bigfoot must have climbed the tree and shaken it.

The best part is when they call town-hall meetings for people who believe they’ve seen a bigfoot, and convince them they’ve seen a bigfoot. I saw a dark figure hiding in the trees. Oh, bigfoots are dark and hide in trees, so it must have been a bigfoot. I saw a fat hairy guy eating a taco. Wow, bigfoots are fat, hairy and LOVE tacos.

Then comes the big finale when they go out in the woods and try to catch one on tape. I don’t know if the producers run out in the woods a throw rocks at them and shake trees, but the four come away convinced they just missed getting one this time … but tune in next week when we go to Montana and almost catch another one.

It’s really a comedy wrapped in a reality show, but the suspense leads you to believe a bigfoot is just about to walk out of the woods and ask them to keep it down. Then he would probably want his own reality show, which might be just as entertaining – Bigfoot searching for intelligent human life. Now that would be a shot in the dark.

But I suppose there’s no harm in the booming popularity in bigfooting. In fact, it’s down-right healthy. If you keep on walking till you find one, it’s great exercise. But if you hear a tree break and ape-like howls, be very careful. It just might be four littlefoots plodding around the woods without a clue.

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