Taking their lumps

Red-king-crabbing, pitbull smacking, and more bull riding
By JAMES PARKER  |  May 1, 2007

DEADLIEST CATCH: Man overboard? Make sure you’ve got plenty of paper towels. (Trust us.)

Across the underwater plains of Alaska’s Bering Sea go movable cities of red king crab, silently marching sideways. They can cover up to four miles a day. Hundreds of fathoms above, on the storm-tossed surface, men in boats are plunging about, merrily cursing one another and slinging out 800-pound steel cages. These are the professional loonies of the Alaskan crab fishery, and they are 60 times as likely to die on the job as the average US worker. Last week, on Episode 3 of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch (Tuesdays at 9 pm), Captain Johnathan Hillstrand was heading north in his vessel the Time Bandit — “into the hills,” as he put it — when he came within sight of another crab boat. A lone fisherman was on deck, hanging close to the waterline, attempting to secure the stacked cages as the crabber reared and sagged in the sea hollows, and while Captain Johnathan watched from his wheelhouse a swell like a huge gray rag rose up and simply swabbed this man away. Gone. “Man overboard!” screamed the captain. Two frenzied and bell-filled minutes later they hauled the fisherman over the rail of the Time Bandit, half-frozen but still conscious and remarkably sanguine: “If you guys have any paper towels, or maybe just like a dry towel so I could dry my hair, that would be great.”

Miracles of Civilization #232: in Worcester, England, a woman smacked her pitbull and received an immediate visit from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA: Have You Got What It Takes, APL, Mondays at noon). “He got smacked on his bum,” said the unrepentant owner. “I wouldn’t even call it a smack. I probably smacked him twice.” “What, on the bum or something like that?” said RSPCA Inspector Dave Long. “He’s like a child,” said the woman. “He doesn’t feel it. And he is so defiant.” “Hmm!” said Inspector Dave, wincing and sucking his teeth. “Open hand? Closed fist? There’s legislation against both those things now. To. Be. Avoided. OK? Keep control!”

The woman continued to speak in truculent, self-justifying tones. Inspector Dave stroked his chin. “Bottom line, though?” he said at last. “Don’t do it.” The woman kept talking. Later in the program we made the acquaintance of a horse that was suffering from hair loss, dehydration, and a “heavy worm burden.” In addition there seemed to be a morale problem: “The pony was depressed at the time,” commented a vet.

Over on Spike TV, on Ultimate Fighter 5, Andy Wang went down hard. Building up to his bout with the enormous Brandon Menendez, Andy appeared to be attempting a species of warrior’s auto-hypnosis: “It’s all about the mists of battle . . . ,” he muttered. “Live like a man. Die like a man. And then you become a man.” (Can that be right?) He also mentioned that he would prefer to die with arrows in his chest rather than arrows in his back, and that today was the day he discovered his destiny. The sense that a slightly delusional inner drama was being played out only increased when Andy confronted Menendez in the octagon and refused to use his effective jujitsu “ground game,” opting instead to remain on his feet and trade blows and kicks with the much larger and longer-limbed man. As you might expect, he got his face pushed in, lost the match, and then collapsed against the chicken wire in windy, operatic sobs. “He thought he was gonna be Bruce Lee or something,” said coach BJ Penn, shaking his head.

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