As the drawing of prize winners in the state's "Diamond Jim" fishing contest teetered on the brink of meltdown yesterday, with Gov. Martin O'Malley as the beleaguered game show host, one could only wonder: Is Maryland really ready to run slot machines?
The use of a Maryland Lottery pingpong ball device to choose the five finalists was too clever by half. With more than 200 anglers and family members watching from a parking lot at Sandy Point State Park, the organizers lost track of the number of balls in the hopper and how they related to choosing the finalists. At least twice, concerned anglers approached the stage to explain to the governor and Department of Natural Resources staff where things went haywire. In the audience, people hooted and laughed.
After 15 minutes of on- and off-stage consultations and several fits and starts to correct the mess, O'Malley grabbed the microphone and used his clout to set things right.
"How many people are in favor of starting over?" he asked as almost every hand shot up in the air. "How many want us to keep limping along this way?"
For DNR, which just created a Division of Do Overs (DODO), it was a combination mulligan and gubernatorial pardon. Staff ditched the lottery machine and broke out a big bowl and raffle-style tickets to choose the lucky five.
Joseph Davis Jr. of Waldorf, who qualified for the tournament by catching a wahoo off Ocean City, won a Nitro bass boat, Mercury engine and trailer worth $20,000.
Bob Spetzler, a retired electrician from Parkville who lives in Berlin, won a $36,000 Toyota Tundra pickup truck. He had qualified by catching a flounder.
His daughter, Melissa Spetzler, was standing in for her father and could barely stop grinning.
"That's what he asked for, to bring him home the truck," she said.
She almost didn't deliver. When Spetzler reached the stage to stand behind one of the five tackle boxes containing the prize certificates, she had her mind set on No. 3. But Mike Mumford of Mechanicsville had chosen that box, so Spetzler stood behind No. 5.
When the first four tackle boxes failed to yield the truck, Spetzler's hands started to shake and the corners of her mouth began rising.
Mumford, along with Walter Slotter of Quakertown, Pa., and Ray Elicker of Red Lion, Pa., each won a gift certificate to Bill's Outdoors Center in Oakland. All told, 228 anglers qualified for the drawing, a 40 percent increase over 2006.
As for Spetzler, who is driving a small Ford pickup truck, the upgrade definitely will come in handy.
"I'm sure we'll take it off road at Assateague," he said in a telephone interview. "I can't believe I won."
DNR, which manages wildlife, water and dirt, has seven months to restore the glitter on Diamond Jim. It should look outside its walls for some expert advice.
Paging Pat Sajak. Please pick up the white courtesy phone.
The O'Malley administration has selected three men for the nine-member Wildlife Advisory Commission.
Tim Lambert, former president of the Maryland Sportsmen's Association, Jeff Plummer, president of the Maryland Waterfowler's Association, and Chris Dollar, regional editor of The Fisherman magazine, will join WAC at its Oct. 17 meeting.
For Lambert and Dollar, the appointments mean a return to the commission, which advises DNR and the governor. The addition of Plummer, who has worked tirelessly for his constituents, will give WAC new depth.
Buck stops here
While on the subject of WAC, I'm tempted to post a sobbing YouTube video, imploring hunters to "Leave Joe alone," after commissioner Joseph Lamp's anti-bow hunting op-ed piece in the Sept. 12 Sun unleashed more than 2,100 heat-seeking missiles from sportsmen around the country.
Talk about deer in the headlights. Lamp, a professor at Anne Arundel Community College, and Odocoileus virginianus are sharing the spotlight in this, the second week of bow season.
I won't dwell on the shaky underpinnings of Lamp's arguments, but I will offer some advice for the good professor should he take pen in hand again.
First, be sure you know when bow season begins. Being off by a day in the opening sentence of your argument is like throwing an interception on the first play from scrimmage after the national anthem. Tends to take the crowd out of the game.
Second, don't dismiss any group by calling it "a mere 3 percent to 4 percent of the state's population." There are many groups of residents who make up a small percentage of society. For example, of the 29,000 Marylanders with HIV/AIDS, 3 percent are ages 13 to 24. No one would ever suggest they don't matter.
Finally, Joe, if you're going to quote an animal doctor to give your argument heft, it's best to find someone other than the territorial veterinarian of Guam, an island without white-tailed deer.
One pearl short
There's only one thing wrong with the governor's new Oyster Advisory Commission: state Sen. Richard Colburn.
Colburn's appointment to an otherwise balanced panel is like Catherine Zeta-Jones with a poppy seed stuck between her two front teeth. You can't take your eyes off the black speck even though the smile is stunning.
What was Senate President Mike Miller thinking when he chose the Eastern Shore Republican for one of the 21 seats? What, Buddy Harrison was busy?
Colburn was appointed in 2002 to serve as one of Maryland's three representatives on the important Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and promptly turned the job over to a proxy, saying he was too busy being a lawmaker and town manager of Federalsburg.
And who could forget that Colburn withdrew from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore two years ago after a former aide showed school officials the drafts of five term papers he said he ghost-wrote for him.
Get the dental floss.