Gone Fishin' : Just when you thought it was safe to go to Oak Bluffs
The 23rd annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament will be held this weekend. Anyone who has ever strolled along the harbor bulkhead when the circus is in town knows that it is a fishing contest about big boys, big toys, and big fish.
I do not fish for sharks. Doing so would violate a basic fishing principle I have followed for many years: do not fish for any fish species that grows bigger than your boat that can eat you.
I like to fish from the shore. On occasion I use a boat but I find it more reassuring to know that solid ground is under my feet and not fathoms away.
Put quite simply, shark fishing and big tournaments are not for me. But soccer is not for me; American Idol is not for me; and watching two guys inside a cage batter each other senseless is not for me.
But do I care if you decide to jump into a cage with a guy tattooed up like a Maori warrior; or sing in front of an audience of millions of viewers? No.
For several years, the Monster Shark Tournament was the focus of some good entertainment. ESPN, the sports network, decided to film the contest, and like chum in the water, the cameras attracted the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
The Humane Society made the tournament the focus of a national campaign. The powerful and very wealthy national organization published the home telephone numbers of Oak Bluffs selectmen who were unwilling to go along with the society's call to boot the tournament out of town.
Selectman Greg Coogan never lost his sense of humor. He added the theme from "Jaws" to his telephone answering machine. The debate grew more rancorous last September when HSUS asked the state's attorney general to investigate whether the tournament was a platform for illegal gambling activities and implied that Oak Bluffs police were complicit.
Perhaps it is the economic slowdown, or simply shark fatigue, but there has been very little talk about the tournament this year. HSUS has scaled back its media assault for budgetary reasons, I am told.
A half-page ad appeared in the Tuesday Vineyard Gazette titled "Shame on the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament." It pictured a trussed up shark and recited all the reasons the tournament is a bad idea.