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Thursday, April 25
Updated: April 26, 6:04 PM ET
 
Fishing fans get jiggy with Brauer

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

Denny Brauer probably would be the first to admit he's a little soft around the middle these days. But in the realm of today's Internet reality, where popularity is measured in numbers of "clicks," the 53-year-old professional bass fisherman is proving an athlete doesn't have to be a 20-year-old blonde tennis star to get noticed on the World Wide Web.

Denny Brauer
With 12 corporate sponsors on his shirt, Denny Brauer would fit in at a NASCAR race.
While Brauer has yet to crack various lists of most-searched athletes, he has ventured into Anna Kournikova territory of another kind as one of the few professional athletes who make a living off the Internet. Though gone are the glory days of lucrative endorsements tied to upstart Internet sites, Brauer continues to reel in the big payday, recently renewing his endorsement deal with eangler.com, an online warehouse of fishing equipment, for another two years and what sources say tops the six-figure mark.

Brauer, a 22-year veteran of competitive fishing, remains popular among those who follow the BASSMASTER Tour. Though he currently ranks 35th on the tour, he has appeared on a Wheaties box and has twice been a guest of late-night talk show host David Letterman. Land O' Lakes once immortalized him with a life-sized statute made of butter.

"Although Denny is not a household name for your hardcore sports fan, in the world of fishing, he's Jack Nicklaus," said his agent, Lowell Taub of SFX.

Mike Davis, president of eangler.com, said Brauer's presence makes a difference in sales on the site, which also includes a weekly column of fishing tips by Brauer and his son, Chad.

"People will come and read his latest article, and when they do, they buy our equipment," said Davis, who claims the site's revenue has steadily increased since its debut in December 1999.

Perhaps Brauer has more interesting things to say than do Michael Jordan, John Elway or Wayne Gretzky. The three superstars penned similar articles for MVP.com, the failed online retailer that they helped launch in January 2000.

Here's a sampling from a recent Brauer column on wintertime jig angling: "Jigging spoons or the jig-and-pig (pork frog) are probably the two most popular methods (of jig fishing). If you want to get into the finesse end of things, fishing a small grub can also be good. But my favorite, naturally, is the jig-and-pork."

Greek to some, for sure. But given that fishing is the world's most popular participatory sport, anglers around the country and across the world can put Brauer's tips -- as well as those of four other professional anglers, Dean Rojas, Terry Baksay, Denise Oyler and Penny Berryman -- to the test for themselves. Brauer's column is read by more than 900,000 people during the year, according to eangler.com data.

"Unlike other sports fans, fans of fishing can do exactly what we are doing," said Brauer, who was named the B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year in 1987 and, more recently, won the 1998 BASS Masters Classic. "If you are a NASCAR fan, you can't jump into a car and just race."

Or step onto the grass at Wimbledon or compete in one of tennis' other Grand Slam events.

Kournikova remains among the most popular athletes, when measured by the number of Internet search requests by name. Among her many endorsement deals is one with Lycos, which produces and maintains her Web site, Kournikova.com. Her lone source of revenue from the deal, though, is believed to be royalties from calendars of her that are sold on the site's store.

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant gave up the new shoes he wore during the regular season for the pair that helped him win two NBA titles.
Kobe One Kenobi?
As the Los Angeles Lakers make their way through the NBA playoffs, Kobe Bryant won't be wearing the latest model of his adidas signature shoe. "For the playoffs, Kobe has chosen to wear the "Kobe" -- the shoe he wore while winning his back-to-back NBA championship rings," adidas spokesperson Nicole Vollebregt confirmed.

The Lakers guard has had two signature shoes made for him. The Kobe debuted in November 2000 and the "Kobe Two" came a year later. Although the shoe has been out only four months, Vollebregt said that adidas "does not feel this negatively affects the brand in any way."

The advertising campaign for the shoe ended in March.

Fantasy auction of another kind
The $10,000 final bid on Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Luis Gonzalez's game-used gum has encouraged other game-used auctions. Rob Buan, host of "Extra Innings," the Oakland Athletics' postgame show on KFRC 610 AM, is auctioning 10 Tim Hudson-used items for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The A's pitcher is a co-host on the show once a week and agreed to give Buan game-used gum, socks, ankle tape and cleat dirt, as well as clippings from his goatee.

Buan had said he hoped to raise $500, but total bids for the items were up to $897 by Wednesday. One bid -- the chance to be photographed drinking beer with Hudson -- topped $500. Bids are being accepted at radio@oaklandathletics.com until the last out of the A's-White Sox game Sunday.

Gonzo Gum II
Trading card company Topps, which makes the Bazooka gum that Gonzalez chews, is auctioning off a one-of-kind comic that pokes fun at Gonzalez's gumgate. The 24-by-31½-inch comic, which includes Gonzalez's autograph, went on the block Wednesday on eBay.

Bids for the comic reached $142.50 by Wednesday night. By midday Thursday, it had topped $500. Topps bid $3,000 for the Gonzalez-chewed gum, which eventually was purchased for $10,000 by Curt Mueller, founder of Mueller Sports Medicine, which makes a competing gum.

Bidding on the comic closes May 1.

The Virtual Al Michaels
Video game publisher EA Sports announced earlier this week that Monday Night Football broadcaster Al Michaels will join John Madden as an announcer in EA's Madden 2003. The company approached Michaels after Madden left his longtime broadcast booth partner Pat Summerall and signed with ABC/ESPN in late February. The Madden football game, the most popular sports game, sold three million copies last year.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn.com









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