YOUR TOPIC TODAY, IN "The Sportsperson's Corner," is: Fishing Tips.
Call me a masculine stud hombre if you wish, but fishing is in my bloodstream. This was also true of Ernest Hemingway, who wrote the masterpiece fishing novel The Old Man and the Sea, later released as the major motion picture "Jaws." It's the gripping story of an old man in a tiny boat who hooks a giant fish and fights it for days on the open ocean, surrounded by increasing literary tension, until finally, in a shocking and unforgettable ending, something happens that unfortunately I am not aware of because I never
finished the book. I read it in high school, when my literary strategy was to read exactly enough to write a book report. Using standard high-school book-report style, I could sometimes write a 500-word report after reading ONLY THE TITLE:
"The Old Man and the Sea is a short novel weighing less than two pounds written by the author, Ernest Hemingway. It concerns an old man who becomes involved with the sea (or, as it is sometimes called, "the ocean"). As the book (The Old Man and the Sea) unfolds, the author, Ernest Hemingway, writes about these two major themes -- 1) the old man, and 2) the sea -- and the things that happen to both the main character, which is the old man, and a major body of water, played by the sea, as viewed by the author, Ernest Hemingway, and as we reach the 106-word mark in this book report we can see that . . ."
And so on. Book reports are excellent training for journalism, the essence of which is writing authoritative stories about things you don't actually understand. I can remember, as a young reporter, writing lengthy disapproving analyses of international banking practices at a time when my personal investment portfolio consisted entirely of discount pizza coupons.
But that is not my point. I have forgotten my point. No! Wait! My point is that rugged outdoorspersons such as Ernest Hemingway and myself are crazy for fishing. Although I frankly have never been fond of bait. I still vividly recall a Bait Encounter I had at Stephen Heyman's 12th birthday party, when his father took a bunch of us boys deep-sea fishing. We got out on the sea (or, as it is sometimes called, "the ocean"), many miles from safety, and Mr. Heyman opened a cardboard box, and out came: giant mutated worms. I have always been fond of regular worms, because they're small and harmless in the sense of having no appendages or mouths, plus they are very slow. You rarely read about people being run down and savaged by packs of worms.
But the worms that emerged from Mr. Heyman's box were more the size of adolescent snakes, plus they had somehow developed LEGS. They started striding brazenly around the boat, obviously aware that they outnumbered us.
So we boys were backing away, thinking about leaping overboard, when Mr. Heyman, in an act of great foolhardiness, picked up one of the worms WITH HIS NAKED FINGERS and put it on a hook. Of course this infuriated the worm, not to mention the onlooker worms, who were clearly thinking: "Okay, if we can develop legs, there's no reason why we can't develop HIGHLY TOXIC STINGERS and . . ." So I spent the afternoon at the front (or "nonworm") end of the boat, admiring the ever-changing beauty of the sea and idly throwing up into it. At the other end, Mr. Heyman continued to wrestle with the worm and eventually used it to capture a flounder, which -- although nobody realized this at the time -- is an extremely dangerous fish in the sense that it will sometimes explode. I know this because dozens of alert readers mailed me a recent newspaper article concerning a woman in Wellington, New Zealand, who was preparing a flounder for dinner when -- this is a direct quote -- "It blew up." (The article states that police are "baffled.")
I would like to dismiss this as an isolated incident, but I also happen to know a famous minor radio personality named (really) Jimmy Music, who does a fishing show in the Florida Keys and who informs me that sharks also sometimes explode. Jimmy states that sharks can contain "an incredible amount of stomach gas" and will sometimes burst upon capture, causing anglers to become drenched with stomach contents. I'm sure this raises some troubling questions in your mind, including:
1. Why do we call
2. Wouldn't "Shark Puke" be a good name
for a rock band?
3. How about "Jim- my Music and the Stomach Contents"?
I don't know about the rest of you sportspersons, but until I get some solid answers to these questions, I do not intend to angle or become otherwise involved with any fish that is not in the form of a frozen stick. That's how I feel, as we reach, at last, the 834-word mark in this column.