Zookeeper juggles itinerary for sea lions


With tourism way down in England because of foot-and-mouth disease, the 14 sea lions at West Midlands Safari Park in London haven't been called upon to perform many aquatic shows.

Zookeeper Peter Montague reckoned the creatures were getting fat and lazy, so he set up an exercise regimen of sorts: He started coaching them to play soccer.

"It's amazing to watch," he said. "Their ball control is second to none. Their favorite trick is to flip it up about eight feet in the air with their tails and then use their heads to nod it into the net.

"When they score, they make an almighty grunt. The only problems are they can't understand tactics - and they are slow in the tackle."

The top player is named Teddy Herringham, named in part after Manchester United's Teddy Sheringham and in part after the seal's snack. Among Herringham's teammates are Paul Scales, Andy Sole and Codney Marsh.

Montague said Manchester United could learn from the seals: "These overrated football players get paid thousands of pounds a week; my seals do it for a couple of fish."

Casting about for the truth

Seals will do anything for a fish. So will politicians.

Last year, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura entered an ice fishing shanty with a TV newswoman and minutes later yanked out a northern pike. The state's First Fisherman then bragged on the radio about how fish respond to his gubernatorial commands.

"The fish are well-aware that they have a governor that can catch them," he boasted.

Then the bait started to stink. Investigation revealed that the pike was not "caught" in the sense that any Minnesotan worth his wax worms would use that term.

Karl Nilsson, publicist for "The View," an ABC talk show that filmed the event, later acknowledged that two fish had been caught earlier in the day by local fishermen and planted on the lines.

The plan was for co-host Lisa Ling to pull up a tiny fish first, and for Ventura to pull his much larger specimen second.

"He was going to say, 'That's not a fish, this is a fish,' " Nilsson said.

We would let the seals decide.

Bait and tackle

San Francisco 49ers guard Ray Brown is irritated that he was goaded into squaring off with Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle John Randle in a game last season.

"Randle is such a jerk," Brown said. "He baited me, and I'm flopping in the boat."

Not flooded at the gates

Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, explaining why his team has had trouble drawing fans: "If you used Comiskey Park as the center of a circle with a 25-30 mile radius around it, 40 percent of the circle is Lake Michigan. And fish don't go to the ballpark."

And the fish certainly stay away from the soccer pitch when the sea lions are in town.

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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