Manly Sport

Suppose that you a) are a father, or b) have a father, and that the Father’s Day gifts in question, well, sucked. Suppose also that you know a man who a) hunts or fishes and b) ever has a birthday.

Pictured at right is the remedy, unless you are a communist or Paul Begala (Seriously. The book opens with Fontova’s family fleeing Castro and Cuba; see Fontova’s “My Love Affair with Dixie” for his reply to Begala’s smears of the South).

The Helldiver’s Rodeo, by’s own Humberto Fontova, is exactly what you should expect if you have read anything by Humberto Fontova. If you haven’t, his article on the recent shark attack in Florida is a good place to start.

The title of the book comes from the name of Fontova’s diving club — the Helldivers. There are other clubs with other names, including clubs of women and housewives. To be fair, I could not put the book down, and spent much of the time reading also crying from laughter. I was in the middle of heavy historical research on the Articles of Confederation, the Civil War, and trying to get through Faulkner’s The Unvanquished and my philosophy dissertation on F.A. Hayek at the time — and Fontova moved to the top of the reading list. It took me longer to write this article than to read the book.

Although I have not confirmed this with Humberto, the book seems to define what it means to be a) Southern, b) Cajun, and c) nuts. I enjoy hunting. I enjoy fishing. I enjoy beer. These guys manage to combine them all with deep-sea diving, football, and wrestling.

In brief, Humberto Fontova lives in the vicinty of New Orleans, a wonderful city for conviviality. To make it better, Fontova dove for fish as a boy in Cuba. Now, in New Orleans, he makes the short trip to the Gulf of Mexico, or various “islands” where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf, to hunt for sharks and other monster fish — and I mean, monster fish, as in 300 pounds and up — near oil rigs.

Seeing that President Bush recently authorized yet more drilling for oil in the Gulf, Fontova’s past-time can only get better.

The Gulf of Mexico, you see, is a bunch of hot, salty water. Fish love that for reproduction. What they love even more are the oil rig platforms. These man-made oil platforms produce more fish than any coral reef. Fontova includes the testimony of more than a few global divers and marine biology types on this point. Always one to stick it to the environmentalist crowd, he also goes out of his way to add how the oil platforms are raping Mother Earth, and how one animal rights group wildly underestimates the “barbarism” of Louisiana — by only counting land animals killed by sportsmen in its “Cavalcade of Cruelty.”

To paraphrase Humberto, after recounting the hundreds of thousands of deer and other wildlife slain in Louisiana, “And that doesn’t include us!”

One simply must savor the speed, pacing, and electricity of the hunt in Fontova’s prose. As Fontova writes in his article on the shark attack (hey, I want to give you a preview, but I don’t want to spoil it for you):

Todd Breaux finally succumbed. With his heart pounding at his very throat, with adrenaline flooding his veins, he locked his eyes onto his prey, cocked another band and started finning into position, set to indulge his primal passions. “Go back to Australia if ya wanna pose for yuppies in cages with their cameras,” Todd thought. “You’re off Louisiana here, Podnuh. Prepare to rumble.”

In short, Fontova is a serious sportsman and hunter. Interspersed throughout the book are passages from Meditations on Hunting by the great Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset. Other gems include appearances by Jacques Cousteau and assorted survivors of shark attacks and other undersea lunacy.