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X-games meets Bassmaster

Sports | After 100 years relegated to secrecy, Show Me state daredevils can now once again try to catch catfish by hand

Issue: "Simpsons: Fair or Foul?," June 11, 2005

Missouri fishermen won't need to bait their hooks for the next big catfish. According to new regulations in Missouri, anglers won't even need a hook. After 100 years relegated to secrecy, Show Me state daredevils can now once again try to catch catfish by hand. It's called noodling, and throughout the American South it's become the extreme sport of choice for fishermen who don't mind the possibility of losing a finger. Think of it as the X-games meets Bassmaster.

A noodler finds a nook where he suspects a catfish is nesting and sticks his hand into the murky deep. If a cat's at home, the fish will bite down on the noodler's fingers or-in the case of a large catfish-his arm. Next, the noodler puts his hand through the fish's gill and starts fighting the fish to the surface. Hand fishers can end up bloody if they catch a cat. But if they stick their fingers into the wrong hole-say the home of a snapping turtle-they can easily lose a finger. "If you don't come up bloody, you ain't been hand-fishing," said one veteran Missouri noodler. In the first week of legalization, only seven Missouri residents had purchased licenses.

Lapping up celeb status at Indy

Although those watching the broadcast wouldn't necessarily know it, Dan Wheldon won this year's Indy 500. Even with a victory at the venerable old race making him a winner for the fourth time in five races, Mr. Wheldon wasn't the top story. Instead, it was open-wheel racing's new first lady who captured the storyline at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Fourth-place finisher Danica Patrick-not Mr. Wheldon-landed the first post-race interview on the ABC Sports broadcast. In May, she became the first woman to lead a lap at the Indy 500. By the first week of June, she was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

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Chalk it all up to sports marketing and the American cult of personality. Desperate for a popularity surge after years of trouble-including a split into the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car Series (formerly CART)-IRL officials hope Ms. Patrick can bring open-wheel racing back. Michael Jordan built the NBA's popularity during the 1980s and '90s. Golf's recent popularity can be attributed to the rise of Tiger Woods. The Indy Racing League thinks Ms. Patrick is the next big thing based on her telegenic looks and the novelty of a female success story in a male-dominated field. One thing Ms. Patrick doesn't yet have: a win. She led several laps at Indianapolis, but made a few rookie mistakes. She'll get her next shot at the Bombardier Learjet 500K at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11. But if her Indy performance is any indication, it won't be long before her first victory lane celebration.

Around the Horn

· In the first inning of his most recent major league comeback, Juan Gonzalez hurt himself again. The former American League MVP pulled the same hamstring that kept him out until May 31 and had caused the right fielder to miss significant time throughout his career. Four seasons ago, Mr. Gonzalez was one of baseball's most feared hitters. But the 35-year-old slugger who hit 340 home runs in his 20s has only managed 94 in his 30s, including just 37 in the past three seasons.

· At long last, the Can has returned to the mound. Club officials termed the return of Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd as the "Can Opener" and, unlike his final big league stint with the Texas Rangers, opponents were unable to kick the Can. Possessor of one of baseball's last cool nicknames, Mr. Boyd began his baseball comeback by allowing just two earned runs on seven hits in six innings for the minor league Brockton Rox. The 45-year-old pitcher finished up his major league career in 1991.

· Pretty soon, Freddy Adu will begin playing with kids his age. The 16-year-old soccer phenom will take a break from Major League Soccer's DC United to join the American under-20 team for the World Youth Championship in the Netherlands. Mr. Adu will still be the team's youngest player, but unlike his sporadic minutes with DC United, the youngster should be the focal point of the American team's attack.


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