The Fly(fish)ing Nun
We couldn't let the year close without acknowledging a most notable anniversary. It was 500 years ago that the first book on fly-fishing, Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle, was printed. The book—which offered detailed instruction in all facets of fishing, from the crafting of equipment and tying of flies to techniques for landing pike—was the work of Dame Juliana Berners, an English nun.
If Dame Juliana was, as many scholars believe, also the author of a 1486 book on falconry, hunting and "fowling," The Boke of St. Albans, she would be the first woman in print in English on any subject.
Still, fishing was, in her opinion, the best sport. "It will be a very great pleasure," she wrote, addressing her readers in the true angler's spirit, "to see the fair bright shining-scaled fishes deceived by your crafty means and drawn to land."
The dame knew her stuff. One of the flies depicted in her Treatyse, the "stone flye," is still being tied today.
Gooden's Bad Luck
Letwa Gooden has more in common with her famous uncle, New York Yankees pitcher Dwight Gooden, than a name and a love of sports. She too has faced career-threatening injury and personal adversity. On Dec. 10 Letwa's sophomore basketball season at American International College, a Division II school in Springfield, Mass., ended when she underwent surgery to repair ligaments in her left knee. For the 5'4" Gooden, who was the Lady Yellow Jackets' starting point guard when she went down, this was the second big setback of her college career: Two years ago she blew out her right knee, an injury that forced her to miss the final 17 games of her freshman season and to redshirt in 1995-96.
And Gooden's misfortunes have not been confined to the court. On June 3 her fiancé, Percell Davis, was killed when a gunman sprayed shots into a Brooklyn crowd. Three months later her mother, Ethel Gray, learned she had skin cancer. "The doctors say they don't think she's going to make it," says Letwa, whose father, Edmund, is Dwight's brother. "I don't believe them. Sometimes you have to place your faith in the Lord's hands."
She's taking the same approach to her basketball career and still hopes to play professionally, but she admits that occasionally "I have to remind myself to believe." So did Dwight, a Cy Young winner at 20, whose career was nearly ended by injuries and alcohol and drug abuse. Letwa sees her uncle at family reunions, and she saw him pitch early last season in a game in which Dwight was, as she says, "hit pretty hard." A few weeks later his performance was more inspirational: He threw a no-hitter.