APRIL 9, 2016 -- by JIM NEFF







The news these days is weighing me down. Reading about the presidential primary circus, Panama Papers scandal, the Flint water disaster, and crooks galore leave me feeling like I've just eaten a couple of turkeys and the tryptophan has reduced my brain activity to the level of a member of Congress.


Ah, but now spring is upon us and so we are all due a break. It's time to take a breath and consider some lighter fare. Things that will not overwork our noggins.


A sure sign of spring is the return of Detroit Tigers baseball. Even with the inevitable wailing an gnashing of teeth every time the Bengals insert a supposed “closer” into a game, it's still a sign spring has sprung.


You can't have baseball without hot dogs. “The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that baseball fans will consume more than 19.4 million hot dogs during the 2016 Major League baseball season. The hot dog total would reach as high as 5,425 One World Trade Centers, the tallest building in the U.S.” One out of every six fans at Detroit's Comerica Park will eat a red hot for a total of 470,000. No guesstimates on how many burps that will cause. (http://www.hot-dog.org/press/mlb-fans-predicted-consume-more-194-million-hot-dogs-2016)


For those of you going to Comerica to see a game this season, you might be interested in what $20 will get you at a concession stand. Two 12 oz. beers and two hot dogs will run $18.50. CNN Money has a neat calculator that shows what $20 buys at every MLB park. See it at: http://money.cnn.com/interactive/news/economy/mlb-prices/.


Another sports rite of spring is happening this weekend – The Masters golf tournament. What this means to those of us who live in Cadillac is that we have something to watch on television after we finish running our snowblowers. We'll get to listen to the PGA pros whine about how the “bitter cold” of 70 degrees and the “howling winds” of five mph have produced “brutal” conditions. This is after they have slept in their free hotel room, eaten a complimentary breakfast, driven to the course in a free car, hit a free golf ball, walked down the fairway in free golf shoes, and had their free golf clubs lugged by someone else (caddy). All of this will be described by announcers with British accents because announcers with American accents don't sound highfalutin enough.


The Masters will get massive TV ratings, something a Ladies Professional Golf Association event never seems to get. It might be because of the top fifty players on the PGA money list, 31 are American, which is appealing to an American viewership. On the LPGA list, only 15 Americans are in the top fifty but there are 16 South Koreans. Right or wrong, there may be a limited amount of Americans who want to watch South Korean women play golf. It might be a pretty narrow demographic. (http://www.lpga.com/statistics/money/official-money)


Well, before you watch your favorite sport on TV, you may start your spring day with a robust cup of coffee. Did you know how coffee was discovered? “Legend maintains that a ninth-century Ethiopian goat-herder named Kaldi observed that his goats were perky after chewing the bright berries of a certain (coffee) bush. He sampled them himself and, having never been exposed to caffeine before, felt energized. He brought the beans to a local Islamic monastic community, who sampled them. Disgusted by the berries, they tossed them aside, inadvertently roasting them in the flames of the fire. The beans inside the berries emitted a delicious aroma and thus, by accident, coffee was discovered.”


When coffee came to Europe it took a while to catch on. “The strong association of coffee and Islam meant it was called 'the black bitter invention of Satan.' Only once Pope Clement VIII sampled the bean and gave it his blessing did Catholics cease to view it as an anti-Eucharist. Clement declared 'this devil’s drink is so delicious, we should cheat the devil by baptizing it.'”

Then an enterprising priest in Columbia made growing coffee trees a part of penance. He told parishioners that for every sin they committed they had to plant three coffee trees. An industry was born. Upon hearing this story, a friend of mine quipped: “If I had to plant three coffee trees for every sin I committed the Manistee National forest would be nothing but coffee trees.” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/04/03/thank-god-for-coffee-no-really.html)


Finally, a few random news tidbits. If you plan on getting a tattoo and you want something original, you might want to avoid getting a Harley Davidson logo. Over 200,000 people around the world proudly display a Harley Davidson tattoo on their bodies. Fender guitars is the second most popular.


If you throw a brick at the TV and shatter the glass during a Tigers game, there is a simple way to clean up the mess. Woman's Day magazine advises: “After glass shatters on the floor, catch tiny shards by gently pressing a slice of bread down on the area. It will pick up hard-to-see slivers.”


Tech expert Kim Komando was asked: “A friend of mine puts her car keys in the freezer to stop car thieves. Is she nuts?” Komand answered: “Car thieves are increasingly taking advantage of keyless entry systems to break into cars, or steal them outright. A freezer can block the remote entry fob’s wireless signal and thwart the thieves.”


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.