Posted on: November 15, 2009 7:43 pm


Today's entry is about bare facts:  simple stats or findings about the way the world is.  Trivia, perhaps, but we all like to challenge our friends or ourselves to see how we score.  But bare facts are more complex than just Jeopardy - they can rewrite our minds without asking and trigger a laugh we never see coming.

First, a stray fact can be intriguing on its face.  Consider an example:
- Estimated number of women killed as witches in Tanzania each year?   Yipes, there are still people pointing medieval fingers?  Salem lives?  Where *is* Tanzania, anyway?  Killed, huh?  Wow, let's see, maybe 17... 18.  I didn't realize they had perfected the witchometer... and such strict sentencing.  You'd have thought keeping a few might help during dry spells. 

Second, the answer can contradict what we suppose:
- 500 killed a year   [HelpAge International (London)]   Almost 10 a WEEK??  Has Harry Potter spawned a new wave of suspicion and intolerance?  Is Hogwarts in Tanzania?  Sometimes the answers take us into uncharted territory.  What if they contradict our comfortable view and force us to revise our thinking?  [ nervous laughter here ].

Third, two stray facts taken together can change the whole idea.  For example:
- Maximum number of miles that Ford's most fuel-efficient 2003 car can drive on a gallon of gas:  36.   Hummm.  - Maximum number its 1912 Model T could:  35.   One small step for a man, one giant nanometer for mankind!   Instant perspective not just about the world but also about our world view. 

Many bare facts make us laugh...  when they become surprising little exclamation points that derail our train of thought by taking a sudden left turn.  Usually when we don't expect it.  A speed bump we never saw coming.  And then we backtrack, re-read them, and laugh at ourselves when we realize our view of the world was incomplete.  Aha!  Caught off guard by a stray idea.  Sprouting seeds of funny.  Examples that humor is the truth taking you by surprise.

Dept. of One Adam 12, See the arMANi Suit:
- Cost to produce a one hour episode of the TV show "Miami Vice":  $2.7 million
- Annual budget for the entire Miami metro Vice squad (in the same year):  $2.3 million

The very best source I know is The Harper's Index, a monthly page of revealing research findings that always uncovers hilarious contradictions, keeps me from taking things too seriously, and jolts my funny bone.  My collected best follow (1987 - 2006), with comments I just couldn't resist.


  Real stats, revealing what people really think (or don't, as the case may be). 
  Test your view of reality... and your friends.  [ editor's comments follow each item ]
 % of Americans who believe the accused are guilty until proven innocent:    50%
        - ...You mean,  they're NOT?!!
 % of Americans who cannot name a country "near the Pacific Ocean."           42%
        - ...I can't be pacific, but...
 % of Americans who don't know how long a meter is:                                         66%
        - ...Until the quarter runs out?
 % of Americans who never read books:                                                                45%
        - ...But I read Penthouse for the articles...
 Barbie's measurements, if life size:                                    39-23-33
        - but Ken would be a mezzo soprano
 Chances of a white Christmas in New York:                   1 in 4
      - Global cooling
 Chances that a physician is an imposter:                      1 in 50
      - The tipoff was the whipped cream...
 Chances that an American has appeared on TV:            1 in 4
     - Sure, since America's Most Wanted
 # of Americans who drown in the bathtub each year:         365
        - Expecting a Baywatch babe rescue?
 # of Americans who are struck by lightning each year        350
        - More than are struck by a new thought...
 # of armed robberies in history in Iceland:                         1
         - Yelling "Freeze" doesn't even stop a Yak
 Estimated % of missing children who have been
     abducted by strangers:                                                     1%
         - The rest become brides in Alabama
 Reported cases of people bitten by rats in New York (1985):  311
        - We know because all the rats died
 ...bitten by other people:                                                     1,519
        - Just bigger rats?
 % of Americans who say they spank their children:                          83%
        - Tough love or Quality time?
 % of Americans who say spanking is "seldom, if ever, effective:"      40%
        - Except in Singapore
 % of American parents who say they never read to their children:      40%
        - But they eat green eggs and ham
 ...never help with homework:                                                        27%
        - It's the New Math
 % of married men who say they would marry the same
     woman if they had it to do all over again:                                 80%
        - They all name the same woman: Cindy Crawford
 ...% of married women:                                                               50%
        - The influence of Fabio
 % increase in the # of women in US prisons since 1974:       285%
        - The popularity of conjugal visits
 % of adults who say they were first told the
    facts of life by their mothers:                                           21%
        - No dessert 'till you eat your veggies
 ...told by fathers:                                                                     5%
       - But they show better videos
 % of executive men who are single or divorced:              4%
       - The rest live on fantasies
 ...% of executive women:                                                      52%
       - Better able to make decisions
 Month with the most car accident fatalities:            Aug
        - EMS is on vacation?
 Month with the most births:                                       Aug
        - While driving...
 Proportion of the year's rain in April:                     1/12
       - The flowers just KNOW, that's all
 % of trees in New Hampshire whose leaves turn red in autumn:   13%
       - The rest just look red after a long drive...
 % of baseball players signed to professional contracts
     who never appear in a major-league game:                            90%
       - Besides Bob Uecker?
 Lifespan of a baseball in the major leagues:                            5 pitches
       - Longer than Bob Uecker
 % of car owners who keep gloves in the glove compartment:   0%
       - Gotta keep 'em ready for foul tips
 Average length of intercourse for humans (in minutes):   2
       - Including the smoke?
 ...for chimps:                                                            7 secs
       - They eat the cigarette
 % of the population that has never flown in an airplane:        33%
       - They keep their seatbelts on
 ...never goes to the movies:                                                     39%
       - Cineplex Odious?
 ...has never eaten a bagel:                                                       80%
       - Antisemite bastards!
 % of the world's population that cooks on wood or charcoal:     50%
       - Mesquite or nothing, demanding cooks say
 % of police who fired their guns in the line of duty:             < 1%
      - Though 74% did off-duty...
 Average take in a bank robbery:                                     $3,000
      - Professionals prefer unmarked singles?
 ...by a pickpocket:                                                              $218
      - Donald Trump must walk around a lot!
...by a shoplifter:                                                                   $72
      - That's just at the dollar store?...
 Pounds of plutonium & enriched uranium missing from US inventories:  9,600
      - Employee lunches?
 ...# of pounds needed to make an atomic bomb:                                        11
      - Not counting the PlayDough
 # of Americans who drink Coca-Cola for breakfast:          965,000
      - ( editor's note:  965,001 )
 Average # of parrots smuggled into the US from Mexico each day:  137
    - The hard part is getting them to spit out the cocaine
 % of American men who say they sleep in the nude:                19%
    - I thought you said "with a nude" - Sorry
 ...% of women:                                                                        6%
    - ... you said "sleep 'till noon"? - Sorry
 Bars of soap used by the average French person in a year:             2
    - Hence the perfume
 Proportion of the world's nations that have practiced torture since 1980:   1/3
    - "We'll KEEP practicing until we get it right!"
 % of Americans who eat at McDonald's each day:                7%
    - EIEIO!
   from the Harper's Index Book,  Henry Holt & Co., 1987.
      Lapham, L. H., Pollan, M., Etheridge, E.
   Reassembled by Fast Food for Thought ,
      the Irrational Numbers Division of
   United Illuminations, the aha! company

   StatGuy, editor & chef.                                   BareFacts - 1

Posted on: October 9, 2009 1:03 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2009 9:04 am

* Baseball is really just Sex in disguise *

You can't help being swept along with the excitement fans unleash as the baseball playoffs head toward a World Series climax.  It's contagious.  Ordinary people everywhere transform into eager admirers and devoted fans mutate into vehement zealots as passions heat up... and often boil over.  Just playoff fever?  No way.  It's much deeper - far more intense and visceral - as even casual fans are possessed by a delirious addiction for baseball that October alone can't explain.

Playoff fever doesn't explain why avid fans line up overnight in March, or wait out a rain delay in Sept in Kansas City, or argue online over pitching in February.  Passion around baseball is in the fan, like hormones, not the schedule.  The national pastime, all the time, the universal urge.  And here's why:  Baseball is really Sex in disguise.

At first glance you might overlook it.  The clues may be subtle, but all the indications are there. Consider a few examples... and as the evidence builds up, you'll see baseball in a new light (a post-conjugal smoke, maybe?).

Some of the less obvious ways * Sex and Baseball * are more alike than you think

Well...  after all, IN BOTH...

The Basics:
- Amateurs get together everywhere and play. Doing it for money, however, is another league.
- It's a confrontation between 2 people, one pitching to another. Then they take turns.
- It's not over until the last player has come up   ..and gone down.
- You can't score if you don't step up to the plate. And take your licks.
- Playing with yourself is ultimately unsatisfying.  It's ok as practice or to relieve tension,
   but it doesn't feel the same.  Everyone does it... but won't say so.

- Men are obsessed with it. They think about it all the time, which often annoys their partners.
- Men talk about it at length with friends...  women talk about length (or lack thereof) with friends.
- Some women tolerate it, reluctantly... but would rather be doing something else.
- Some women play along... but are really thinking about players they prefer.  Or shopping.
- Other women are total fans, often much more passionate and noisy than their partners
   (who should count themselves as very, very blessed).

The Players:
- Many rookies are just happy to get to 1st base, but veterans are always looking to score.
- Some players brag about statistics.. usually the ones not playing.
- Experienced players aren't shy about grabbing their crotches.  On TV, even.
- Switch-hitters see more playing time.  And while everyone has that ability, many decline.
   Some say it's unnatural. Or even perverse.  Others really want to... secretly.
- Players excell at their favorite position... though it helps to be versatile.

The Schedule:
- Professionals play almost every day... amateurs envy that but can only do it once a week.  Or less.
- Playing at home is favored, since away games can be riskier... away from wives and such.
- Players lose sleep on long road trips ...  but they see new fans that way.
- A Sunday double-header is rare treat. (Provided you stay for both games)

The Equipment:
- Street or business clothes aren't usually worn...   though, a serious player
   *really* appreciates a good looking formfitting curvehugging uniform.
- Only 2nd stringers stay clean. Real players are proud to get down and dirty.
- It is considered good form for men to wear protection.  Or else.
- When players feel a glove or hat is lucky, they make a real fetish of using it all the time.
   It's only a problem when they can't play without it. Or their teammates object.

The Rules:
- Stopping in mid-delivery is a "balk". It's not allowed, it's penalized..  and you can get injured.
- All playing fields are different sizes, but...  the mound and the turf are usually very familiar.
- Both sometimes end for a player with an early ejection.
- While moistening a ball is technically illegal... it is very, very effective.
- If you see four balls, you walk... (except under very unique conditions).
- Purists frown on a designated hitter. But then... some players say it livens the game.

- Though people say size doesn't matter, players with a big bat are much sought after.
- Weak hitters don't make it unless they have good hands.  Or other special talents.
- Smart players jump at the chance to get a few lessons from an experienced coach.
   It's usually better if it's not a relative, though. 
- While all-female teams play in a league of their own, they enjoy a devoted following.

During Play:
- A dribbler that runs foul is disapponting. A frozen rope is a very good thing.
- People admire you being "up for a big game"... though, it's expected by serious players.
- A fastball suddenly coming up and inside can be intimidating, but you have to expect a high
   hard one. It's always been part of the game... and real players say it gets their juices flowing.
- Sneaking a glance at a friend's box is ok when you're up. Encouraging, even. But when
   you're playing the field, it's dangerous. You might get hit in the face. Or worse.

- Everyone enjoys watching...  but nothing beats being at the ballpark.
- Screaming is common.  Even encouraged.  The noise seems to excite the players, too.
   In fact, you can tell a lot about what's going on just by listening. 
- Many people collect pictures of their favorites... often compulsively.
- Die-hard fans watch all the time.  This annoys people close to them, who would really
   prefer that they get out and actually play, instead. 

The Spirit:
- Names can inspire dreams.. (Expos, Giants, Tigers, Aureoles, Twins)...
   and some names disappoint (Brewers, Red Sox, Cubs, Padres).
- No sound gets players excited like the crack of rawhide in the spring.
- Some are free swingers.. others wait for a pitch in a preferred location.
- Players send secret signs by touching the body, chest, head and lips. Repeatedly.
- Autographs are sought after... but signing during play is frowned upon.
- Players usually ignore hecklers...  unless the putdown is really below the belt.

But most importantly: In BOTH...

- The very best men who ever played *never* finished first!

copyright 2009, all rights deserved, some assembly required, batteries not included.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com