I am proud to say that I am finally able to give something back to Chicago, the city where I was born and raised.
Chicago - the city with big shoulders, big ideas, and big payoffs - now has a chance to show those people in Washington that "The Chicago Way" is the one true path to make things right.
All this was prompted by a recent missive from South African big game angler Ian McThillius, a chap known for his extra-long telephone conversations and great catches of Nile Perch. He helped convince me to charge ahead with my idea.
I hereby announce a sure-fire way to solve the Asian carp problem.
Readers and radio show listeners have been urging me to offer solutions to what has been described as another ecological disaster in the making. Of course, I am referring to the Asian and silver carp invasion in canals and waterways around the state.
These fish are ravenous critters and they've been reported to be noshing on all kinds of tasty goodies found in the murky rivers and streams of Illinois.
Here's my idea: I propose we have the first-ever Chicago Carpoloosa Pro-Am Fishing Tournament.
This could be a two-day event held on the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal as well as on the Illinois River near Utica.
We'd send out e-mails and letters to top-tier anglers such as Ron and Al Lindner, Babe Winkelman, Spence Petros, Tom Skarlis, Mike Iaconelli, Gary Parsons, Ted Takasaki, Buster Culjan, George H.W. Bush (a very enthusiastic fisherman), former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, Ken Darga, Ken Schneider, Darrell Baker and the late Gaddabout Gaddis.
This idea makes sense in that Minnesota has its famous eelpout derbies every year while other neighboring states (including Illinois) have walleye tournaments.
Here are some of the proposed rules.
• An amateur angler coughs up $100 to a favorite charity, then throws his or her name into a bucket. That amateur is then paired with a pro for the two-day event.
• I'm suggesting two heats. In the first one, anglers must catch a minimum of 500 pounds of Asian and silver carp. The final run will demand a boat catch of at least 1,000 pounds. Anglers must also have enough jumbo burlap sacks to hold the fish. Each day the catches will be dropped off at the steps of the local office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for inspection and DNA testing, just to make the scientific experts agree that the fish in fact are the prized Asian and silver carp. And because we've been told that these fish are good to eat, perhaps the Corps can make amends to the folks in New Orleans and transport frozen fish down south.
• I'm suggesting the public select 25 Chicago city aldermen and 25 state lawmakers to be referees and transport captains (for the fish to be delivered to the Corps), thereby keeping a sharp eye on contestants so that no cheating is done. These sharp-eyed politicians should be able to spot potential rule-breakers.
• The referees will be in rubber boats, inflated with bureaucratic hot air, and these folks will follow the tournament anglers throughout the contest.
• The final weigh-in should be held at Soldier Field (like the Bassmaster Classic), with news releases sent proclaiming many thousands of people will be on hand (as the Bassmaster folks had predicted). The winners will be driven around an oval, like the old stock car races held at Soldier Field some 50 years ago, in big, black, shiny limos.
• The tournament winners will get free parking for a year on Michigan Avenue, as well a year's supply of pork chop sandwiches from Gus' Fountain Creations Eatery.
This will be fun and should run like a fine-tooled Chicago city contract.
Let the games begin.