Jake Waddell is a legend.
“I don’t know about legend,” he told the Midday 180 on 104. 5 The Zone in Nashville on Tuesday. “Just a dumb redneck with a bad idea.”
Waddell is the Nashville Predators fans who hurled a catfish on the ice during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. That’s notable, but not legendary. What makes one legendary is when that catfish is imported from Tennessee, run over by a pickup truck to flatten it, vacuum sealed, hidden in one’s crotch, hurled onto the ice and results in charges from police that include “possessing one or more instruments of crime, namely, a dead catfish, with intent to employ it or them criminally.”
That, folks, is legendary.
Waddell said he was headed to visit family in Western Pennsylvania when inspiration struck: He would buy a ticket to Game 1 between the Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and throw a catfish on the ice, as is tradition in Nashville.
“The more the idea got out, the more it just steamrolled into actually happening,” he said.
Waddell said he didn’t realize local Pittsburgh fish markets were checking the IDs of people buying catfish, in an effort to prevent this very thing from happening. It didn’t matter. He wanted to import one anyway. “I wanted to take a Tennessee catfish, because it’s more original to throw one of our catfish on the ice,” he said.
So he procured one. A really big one. Maybe too big. Yes, totally too big.
He threw it in a cooler to drive it up to Pittsburgh with his family. In order to cover the smell, he “sprayed it with Old Spice” and created what Waddell delightfully called a “rotten fish crotch” smell.
He took the fish to his cousin’s house, where they fileted it, taking out the spine. That’s why when the fish hit the ice, it looked like it had been half-eaten by a shark.
But that didn’t get it flat enough. “So I ran over it with my pickup truck to flatten it out, so we could seal it, and it could fit in my crotch,” Waddell said.
(The crotch was his second choice. First choice was inside his boot but, alas, the catfish’s head was too large.)
He said he’s a “bigger guy,” so the catfish nestled in his crotch, undetected. For the clandestine smuggling of sea life in the a hockey game is not a skinny jeans man’s task.
He spent $350 on his ticket to Game 1, sitting in the upper deck. Which is not prime fish-tossing territory. “What made the Pittsburgh people mad was that I had to outsmart them to get in with the fish, and then to get down to the ice to throw it on the ice,” he said.
Waddell had the fish wrapped in a free T-shirt given away at the game.
“We scope it out. I almost got caught once, and had to hightail it out of there. We’re looking around, and I find two Predators fans down there who have E-tickets. They screen shot their tickets and texted them to me. It’s that simple,” he said. “I go down to that section. Turns out I don’t even need it, because they’re not even checking. So there’s a stoppage in play, and I just high-tail it down to the ice. I take the shirt off and throw it on the ice.”
The catfish was tossed. The game was delayed. The fans in the section under its flight pattern started rustling, then booing, then marching up the stairs to confront him. By this time, security officials were escorting Waddell out.
They took him to the detention room at the arena, where the drunks are questioned after fights. (Waddell said he was stone cold sober.) “They’re all staring at me, trying to take it serious. One said ‘I hope you’re satisfied’ and I said ‘yeah, I am,’” he said.
Waddell said the police were charging him with disorderly conduct, which would be a citation mailed to him with a fine he could pay or fight. Like a speeding ticket, or any other minor offense.
Instead, Waddell found out through the media on Tuesday that the charges are “disorderly conduct, disrupting a meeting and possessing instruments of a crime.”
The instrument of crime, again, being a catfish flattened by a truck.
Did P.K. Subban, Predators’ star defenseman, know that fish could be instruments of crime? “No, I did not,” he said on Tuesday. “But I hope someone saved the catfish, because I’ve never had it before. So maybe I’ll have it for dinner tonight.”
These charges were handed down as his story gained national infamy. The People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement, saying, “PETA appreciates PPG Paints Arena’s swift action to eject the fan and have him charged with several crimes, which will remind all sports fans that this offensive behavior will not be tolerated.”
Pittsburgh’s Mayor William Peduto released a statement:
— Office of the Mayor (@TheNextPGH) May 30, 2017
(OK, so it turns out something awful did come from this incident.)
If the authorities don’t heed the mayor’s words, Waddell is ready for a cat(fish) fight, as no less an authority as TMZ Sports said the charges could lead to up to six years in prison.
“If they want to go down that road, we can,” Waddell told the radio station, defiantly. “I’m just stubborn enough, as you can probably tell from strapping a catfish to my crotch, to go up there and fight it.”
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