The Debate: The Magna Carta v. The Ronco Pocket Fisherman

Magna Carta (left) or the Ronco Pocket Fisherman: Which looks more fun to you?
Magna Carta (left) or the Ronco Pocket Fisherman: Which looks more fun to you?

I can list the handful of writers who have truly inspired me throughout my career in journalism. Steve Buckley. Rick Telander. Steve Rushin. Dick Schaap. Dave Anderson. Mike Freeman. A couple of others. None, however, have had the impact of Greg Orlando, my former co-worker at the University of Delaware student newspaper and one of the best scribes I’ve ever seen.

Greg has worked for a handful of publications, primarily dealing with video games. He conducted the funniest Jason Giambi interview of all time (Question (feeling Giambi’s uniform): Is this thing velvet?), and once wrote an essay, “The Answer Man,” that continues to blow me away. Most important, he’s a good friend, and he’s agreed to contribute to by taking one side in our semi-regular debate session. Hence, today Greg and I contest an issue of grave consequence: the Magna Carta v. the Ronco Pocket Fisherman.

In defense of the Magna Carta/By Greg Orlando

They advertise the Ronco Pocket Fisherman “as seen on TV.” I once saw Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo on television, so this is clearly not an endorsement, ringing or otherwise, for the product. As an experiment in me getting you to do something other than eat Cheez Doodles and then lick Cheez Doodle remnants off your fingers, try and find the Pocket Fisherman on the World Wide Web on any sites that do not market hardcore clown pornography. If you visit the Ronco Web site and follow the Fisherman’s link, you get an error message. Even the sad folks who’ve taken to claiming the product as their own can’t be bothered.

If you ever don’t hate life enough, you can watch a review of the Pocket Fisherman on YouTube. I don’t mean to be uncomplimentary to the video’s maker, Earthling1984, who builds a compelling case for the product’s quality. Rather, I mean to say you do not ever want to waste eight minutes of your life on plastic and despair that won’t even fit into your pocket.

The English were on to something with the Magna Carta. Yes, the document linked only the monarchy to the persecuted nobility, and spoke nothing of the great unwashed. Its freedoms were not for the little people because the elites understood, even then, that you do not entrust the keys to the kingdom to the people who made Benny Hill an actual thing.

Freedom is a long, slow road, and can’t be fit neatly into a backpack the way the Fisherman can. It can’t be folded; doesn’t have a compartment for lures, bobbers, your cocaine stash, or your extensive collection of hardcore clown pornography; and can’t be adjusted for drag. It costs far more than $20. It will not hook you a sweet bass.

Yet in the Magna Carta we can see hints of a great promise. We understand our right to trial by jury of our peers too incompetent to get out of jury duty has its origins in the document. The founding fathers used the principles found in the Magna Carta as inspiration for their Bill of Rights. They went fishing for an idea to base a country on, cast their lines out, and reeled in a democracy that stands, to this day, as a beacon for the rest of the world, not to mention a place where you can get a fried chicken glazed donut sandwich. It shouldn’t even be a thing. But it is.

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 12.53.33 AM

In defense of the Ronco Pocket Fisherman/By Jeff Pearlman

For as long as I’ve known Gregory Orlando, he’s been a word-aided fraud. He spins yarns and quotes Greek mythology and invents terms that sound close enough to be real so that you, the listener, dare not question him, for the risk of being labeled “stupid” is too strong.

Beneath the bluster, however, is 100-proof bullshit. Hell, don’t take my word for it. Read his above essay. For all the beauty of his selected phrases, he makes more of a case for himself as a public orator than for the Magna Carta, a document almost as influential as the music of Taylor Hanson.

What Gregory fails to mention (and not by mere accident) is that while his beloved Magna Carta is historic toilet paper, the Ronco Pocket Fisherman is a device brought forth by the Gods. I am not exaggerating. On page 34 of the Newest Testament, God descends from the heavens in the form of a simple man, and approaches his son, Ronco, by the river. To quote the Newest Testament: “And God looked upon Ronco, and spoke these words with great love: ‘Thy pole is too large, thy fish are too swift. Make a really fucking cool miniature fishing poll, name it after yourself and score some crazy bitches, too.”

And that’s exactly what Ronco did.

Some 2,000 years after that passage was written, I can say—with complete confidence—that the Ronco Pocket Fisherman is Chanukah and Halle Berry’s left shin combined. “Simply unfold and wait for a bite.” raves the advertisement—and truer words have never been spoken. You, literally, unfold, then wait for a bite. No mess, no fuss, no arguing, no Emmanuel Lewis, no discharge, no wart infections. Even if one fails to catch a single fish (which, ahem, seems pretty likely), the act of unfolding is alone worth $19.95.

The Magna Carta? Wrap your fish in it.