Monday, April 24, 2017

COLUMN: (Not) Finding Bigfoot

I'm not one to endorse products -- unless, of course, it involves secret handshakes and lucrative payoffs exchanged in subterranean parking garages on moonless nights. Disappointingly, no company has yet to offer any bribes in exchange for my high-profile celebrity endorsement. This time, though, I don't even need payola.

I recently got a Tivo box -- and I have absolutely no idea how I lived without one (though, if I had to guess, I'd say "more productively.")

Similar to a DVR, Tivo lets you record TV shows and play them back at your leisure. But on my old DVR, you could only tell it to record a certain channel at a certain time on a certain day. But with Tivo, you just enter the name of a TV show and it finds every instance of it across all channels. It'll even record re-runs if you want.

Thanks, science. Finally an excuse to NEVER leave the couch.

Thanks to Tivo, I've been able to catch up on all the news about the grumpy-faced orange-haired monster that's been on everyone's mind lately: Bigfoot.

I've mentioned my obsession with the show "Finding Bigfoot" before, but truth be told, I've only managed to catch an episode here or there. Thanks to Tivo, I came home the other night to no fewer than 43 episodes of "Finding Bigfoot" just waiting to be binged. That's almost two solid days of 'squatchin'.

Spoiler alert: They don't find Bigfoot. They never find Bigfoot. They never find anything -- but it's still amazing entertainment. For the uninitiated, "Finding Bigfoot" follows a similar format as all those other ghost, UFO, and monster shows out there. Each week, a team of investigators follow up on sightings of the elusive Sasquatch, a giant ape-like creature said to roam the American wilderness. Sasquatch are elusive primarily because they don't exist -- but don't tell that to our intrepid team.

Every episode follows the same storyline: The team gets sent a grainy video of something large and invariably out-of-focus moving through the woods. They travel to where it was filmed, where Ranae (the skeptical one) immediately debunks the video as a hoax or a bear. Matt (the believer) then refutes Ranea with broken logic like, "This ISN'T a bear, and since no other mammals that large live in these woods, you DEFINITELY saw a Bigfoot." Cliff (the guy who nods enthusiastically) nods enthusiastically.

Then they interview any locals who want fifteen minutes of fame with their personal I-saw-a-Bigfoot story. Finally, they set out on a night investigation where the team wanders through the woods making absurd howls and listening intently for a response. At best, they might hear a coyote or a tree branch snapping somewhere in the distance. Every episode ends with them finding nothing, but with a voiceover that says, "Based on what we found [nothing], we can safely say that there are DEFINITELY Squatches in these woods!"

Do I believe in Sasquatch? Nope. If they were real, you'd think we'd have at least stumbled upon some Bigfoot bones by now. But I love this show just as I love Ghost Adventures, UFO Files, and all the other umpteen paranormal shows currently pushing my Tivo to its limits. There's just something captivating about people wandering the woods at night. Who cares about Bigfoot? If they just called the show "Four People In The Woods At Night," I'd still watch.

It seems like most of the encounters they investigate happened during the day, yet the team always searches at night, presumably because it looks way cooler. There's nothing exciting about watching nerds wander through the woods. But when the sun goes down and the night vision cameras come on, then they're nerds wandering through CREEPY woods, and suddenly it's 1000x better.

The psuedoscience is on full display. One minute, they'll say something like, "We don't know much about Sasquatches, other than they exist," and not five minutes later, one of them will offer up a fact like, "Sasquatches knock on trees to alert one another to their location." Really? A Sasquatch told you this?

There's something magical about the unknown, whether it's ghosts or aliens or imaginary apes running amok in the woods. I might not believe in Bigfoot, but I would LOVE to be proven wrong. If the "Finding Bigfoot" team ever, well, finds Bigfoot, I'll be cheering the loudest of all. Maybe living in the corn belt without much untamed wilderness nearby has made me jaded to the Bigfoot legend. But our area isn't immune to Squatchin'. The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization website lists one Class A encounter in Rock Island County and two sightings in Scott County. Bigfoot could be among us as I type.

So if you've ever seen a Bigfoot squatchin' around your property, and especially if you've got some creepy woods we can go walking through at night, e-mail me. Me and my team of expert Bigfoot hunters [or whatever friends I can talk into it] will investigate [and most likely lovingly mock] your claim. Well, once winter's over. We're not savages.

Besides, that'll give me JUST enough time to make it through these 59 episodes of "Ghost Adventures" Tivo just taped for me.

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