DECEMBER 29, 2010 ICE ROAD PUCKERS
In 2003, I showed you a graphical representation of baseball standings, progressing through the course of a season. I called it the Diamond Brick Road.
On New Years Day 2011, the National Hockey League plans to stage its outdoor Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. For the occasion, Ive created a similar chart for hockey, the Ice Cube Road.
As you climbed my baseball chart, you could proceed from a given brick to either of two bricks partially overlapping it on the next level above. However, hockey is slightly different. Each game has not two possible outcomes but three. A team earns 2 points for a win. For a loss, it earns 1 point if the loss comes in overtime or via shootout, or 0 points if the loss comes in regulation time. Therefore, on my hockey chart you can move from a given ice cube to any of three cubes on the next level: directly above (1 point), above and to the left (2 points), or above and to the right (0 points).
At this point, the winning percentages were .625 for Philadelphia (5 points out of a possible 8) and .400 for Pittsburgh (4 points out of a possible 10). Winning percentages correspond graphically to the angular bearing from the purple cube: northwest is 1.000, due north is .500, and northeast is .000.
So heres the complete chart, showing all five teams in the Atlantic Division after last nights games. The diagonal line of red dots at 93 points represents the approximate minimum a team needs to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
You can make your own chart and follow along! Or you can just wait for me to update the Ice Cube Road for you a couple of months from now, and again at the end of the regular season in April.
DECEMBER 25, 2010 CHRISTMAS 1955
Ive colorized a 55-year-old snapshot to relive the holiday scene when I was eight years old.
For our second Christmas since moving to the house on Hoskins Pike, the tree had been set up in front of the east-facing bay window in what was nominally the dining room. On the old upright piano was a piece of sheet music, something about a snowflake.
By Christmas night, the presents had all been opened and arranged around the tree, where I posed with my new saxophone. This toy instrument had a harmonica reed for each of the nine notes that sounded when their keys were depressed. The performer's repertoire was limited to melodies that spanned no more than one octave, such as "The First Noel" and "Joy to the World" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."
Under the tree on the right we can see a microscope set, which came in a large green box with samples of things to look at under magnification. On the left is a canister of American Logs; theyre similar to Lincoln Logs, and I mentioned them in this article. Next to it is a leather briefcase monogrammed T.B.T. with which I could carry my music to my weekly piano lessons. I used it for that purpose for nearly ten years, and even today its on standby in my closet.
The only gift I can identify that wasnt for me is the rectangular brass-and-pink-ceramic planter, which my mother would use for African violets.
DECEMBER 22, 2010 WAR? ON CHRISTMAS?
Athletes complain their team never gets the respect it deserves. When they feel theyre the underdog, it motivates them to shock the world and prove the doubters wrong.
Most Americans are Christians, yet many claim that they too are being disrespected. Suppose one of them wishes you a merry Christmas and you dont answer in kind; instead, you reply And a happy Hanukkah to you or Seasons greetings. Many Christians will take offense at that. They dont like to be reminded there are people who dont share their beliefs. They prefer everyone to agree with them.
Is it wise for a non-Christian to refuse, on principle, to say Merry Christmas? Well, lets consider.
Now consider these facts.
So if an atheist says have a merry Christmas, hes not necessarily endorsing Christ-worship. Hes just accepting the fact that the late-December holiday of merriment and giving gifts, formerly Saturnalia and later Yule, is currently called Christmas in our culture.
The nonbeliever would be wise to go along with this accepted common terminology, rather than pointedly avoiding it and handing the Christians another excuse to feel persecuted and hate their neighbors.
DECEMBER 16, 2010 AS I REMEMBER IT
Fifty years ago today, I was watching the evening news from WLWC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Columbus, Ohio. The picture below isnt actually from that newscast, of course; its my re-creation of what I still recall seeing.
Hugh DeMoss reported that two airliners had been approaching their landings in New York that morning when they collided in a cloud a mile above Staten Island. One was a TWA Super Constellation carrying 39 passengers and a crew of five from Columbus to LaGuardia Airport. The other was a United Airlines DC-8, bound from Chicago to Idlewild Airport with 77 passengers and a crew of seven. There were no survivors.
Later, we learned that the United jet had been 12 miles off course. It fell into a busy Brooklyn street, killing six more people on the ground. The toll of 134 made this the deadliest commercial aviation accident in the United States to that time.
DECEMBER 10, 2010 COLLECTIONS
As a result of this website, I've collected a fair amount of e-mail from people I've never met. For example, at the end of this article I mentioned Jim O'Callaghan's inquiry about the tragic 1945 crash of a planeload of servicemen returning home from India after the war. (Less than three weeks before, my father had flown the same route!)
Jim ran across my article and wrote last month to tell me, "I have done extensive research on that aircraft loss as well as many others in the CBI theatre. My research has led me to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Saint Louis where more than 250 group burials took place after WW II. It is nice to see there are still people who will keep the memory alive of those who served so far away so long ago."
DECEMBER 4, 2010 EARLY TO BED, VERY EARLY TO RISE
Have you ever received an e-mail from me and wondered why I sent it in the predawn hours? Heres the reason.
I usually work on sports telecasts in prime time, but I work only a few evenings a week. I do get nights off, often several in a row.
After a night when I haven't had to work, I go to bed as usual. However, Im well rested by 5:00 A.M., so I get out of bed and begin my daily activities. That afternoon, I ought to take a nap, but often I don't get around to it. That evening, I settle in to watch my familiar TV shows from my comfortable couch. Within half an hour Im so relaxed that I fall asleep. Then I awaken at 3:00 A.M., eager to check my e-mail and start another day.
With an unpredictable schedule like that, its fortunate that I live alone.
For 17 years after my mother died, my father lived alone. He confessed to me that sometimes he lost track of time. In the winter hed awaken when it was dark outside. Hed check his watch and see that it was around 6:00, so hed get dressed and drive downtown for breakfast. At the restaurant someone would tip him off that it was actually 6:00 P.M.
I have similar experiences, although I soon realize my mistake. To eliminate the ambiguity, I've taken to setting my watch to 24-hour military time. Eating breakfast at 06:00 is permitted; eating breakfast at 18:00 is silly.
NOVEMBER 28, 2010 NOW IT CAN BE REVEALED
In a letter I once wrote, I recalled an incident from 45 years ago this month. As an Oberlin College freshman, I had a small role in a PG-rated illuminated display at my dorm. But I never actually saw the display in person.
NOVEMBER 22, 2010 VACUUM CLEANER
NOVEMBER 16, 2010 ANNIVERSARY
Today would have been my parents 70th wedding anniversary. They were married in Covington, Kentucky, on November 16, 1940.
As Ive discovered, it was not unusual for young couples to travel hundreds of miles to be married in Covington. Another example came to light recently: this time, a 100th anniversary.
According to the Richwood Gazette of Thursday, August 25, 1910, Miss Elizabeth Daniels and Edward Niebler eloped to Covington, Ky. and were married. The groom is 23 and the bride is but 17. ...The parents of neither the bride nor groom had any thought of their intentions of eloping.
Miss Daniels, whom I've represented by the Sears, Roebuck catalog drawing at the right, was noticed to take some of her wearing apparel in a valise around 11 oclock on a Friday. She was asked where she was going, and the reply was nowhere. But she did confide her plans to her sister.
As usual, Elizabeth drove the milk wagon to town and delivered the milk at the Richwood Creamery. She then hitched the empty wagon in front of the Church Hardware Company store and asked Constable George Curl if he could arrange for someone to take the wagon home. The officer enlisted his son Rolla, with the help of Edgar Wilkinson, to return the rig to the Daniels place.
At the Big Four railroad depot, Mr. Niebler was waiting for his sweetheart. The crowd which had gathered there had considerable fun at the expense of the youthful lovers before they departed on the 3:59 train on their way to Covington.
NOVEMBER 12, 2010 LOOKING INTO THE PEA SACK
Tomorrow afternoon, on the final Saturday of the regular season, the football team at California University of Pennsylvania had hoped to be hosting whats called The State Game.
Why did I say as originally scheduled? Well, the PSAC has developed a clever way to stage a championship game between the winners of its two divisions without having to add an extra week to the season. Allow me to explain.
Each team begins its 11-game schedule on Labor Day weekend with a non-conference game. The next two weeks, the team plays interdivisional games against teams from the opposite division. Then divisional play begins, in which the team meets each of the other members of its own division. The standings after this seven-week divisional campaign determine the East and West winners.
Finally, on the 11th and final weekend, a third interdivisional game is played. Tomorrows schedule calls for all eight of the East schools to visit West schools. (Its reversed in odd-numbered years, when all the West schools go East on the final Saturday.)
NOVEMBER 11, 2010 HONORING VETERANS
NOVEMBER 7, 2010 THE THREE-CORNERED FIELD
NOVEMBER 1, 2010 WHISTLING
In Ohio, this minor vandalism on the night of October 31 had been going on for years. I found items published in the Richwood Gazette 45 years before, warning of 19th-century juveniles who stole cabbages and turnips and apples on Halloween.
Tricks were played, but as yet there was no trick or treat. It may have been some Canadian kids who first got the idea of running a protection racket. Trick or Treat Is Demand of local youngsters, an Alberta newspaper reported in 1927. In other words, well play a trick on you unless you buy us off with a tasty snack. (This information comes from here.)
The extortion ploy spread south to the United States. By 1934, a paper in Portland, Oregon, was reporting that young goblins and ghosts, employing modern shakedown methods, successfully worked the trick or treat system in all parts of the city. In Helena, Montana, another writer described how Pretty Boy John Doe rang the door bells and his gang waited his signal. It was his plan to proceed cautiously at first and give a citizen every opportunity to comply with his demands before pulling any rough stuff. Madam, we are here for the usual purpose, trick or treat.
But the custom may not have become well established in Ohio, under the name Beggars Night, until about the time I entered the world in 1947. I still have objections to the concept.