Fall is upon us and that means another season is also in full swing – tailgating. When you attend these parties it's important to have some tidbits to toss into any discussion. 


Most tailgate get-togethers center around sports events, so having something sporty to say is desirable. Toss this in when there's lag time before the next tub of chicken wings arrives. “In 2018, Michigan had the eighth-most participants in high school sports nationally, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Topping the list was Texas with 825,924 participants, followed by California (824,709), New York (369,266), Ohio (339,158), Illinois (333,838), Pennsylvania (316,429) and Florida (308,173). Michigan’s total participants (292,947) were split between 126,342 girls and 166,605 boys.” 


Once these stats are digested, see if anyone knows what's the fastest growing high school sport in Michigan. “Boys bowling led the way in terms of gaining participants and is now ranked second nationally.” (https://www.candgnews.com/sports/michigan-ranked-in-top-10-nationally-among-high-school-sports-participants-114805)


One high school sport that is becoming more costly to play is baseball. This is because the ongoing trade dispute with China is causing baseball equipment prices to rise. “Almost everything you need to play America’s homegrown sport is now made in China, from cleats to batting helmets. America imports $69.5 million worth of baseballs and softballs from China annually, compared with $18.5 million from the next-largest supplier, Costa Rica. Only one company still produces baseball gloves in America — Texas-based Nokona. Wooden bats are still produced in the U.S., which is rich in lumber. But metal and composite bats are largely made in China, and those are the ones used by club and school leagues with the tightest budgets.” 



In case the mention of “trade dispute” threatens to launch a political discussion, something to be avoided at all costs, having something political that is humorous could come in handy. “Ugly Gerry, a font made by using the shapes of gerrymandered districts, is probably one of the most fun endeavors we’ve seen. The Gerry font is valuable in that it utilizes some of the worst offenders of gerrymandering.” You can see this funny font at: https://uglygerry.com/.


Another political tidbit that might be interesting to everyone is what parts of the country have the best and worst voter turnouts. OZY.com has put together a nifty interactive map to depict this. “Explore voter turnout in your community — or any other in the U.S. — for the past four election cycles. This first-of-its-kind analysis of national turnout by county was conducted by OZY in partnership with data firm 0ptimus.” Using the map, you can see the voter turnout in our local counties (Wexford, Missaukee, Osceola, Lake) range in the 50-56 percent range. See the map at: https://www.ozy.com/topic/who-cares.


Fall also means the weather is changing and that obviously means we all need to know how many shopping days are left before Christmas. The Christmas Clock tells us that number is now 88 days (https://www.xmasclock.com/). If you can pry them away from the chip dip trough, tailgaters might be interested to know what to buy for the kidlings on their lists. Some of the top toys for 2019 are: LEGO Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire Hogwarts Clock Tower kit, L.O.L. Surprise O.M.G. Swag Fashion Doll, Melissa & Doug Top and Bake Pizza Counter, Fisher-Price Wonder Makers Design System, Radio Flyer Classic Red Dual Deck Tricycle, LEGO Star Wars Boost Droid Commander, Play-Doh 36 pack, Blinger Deluxe Set, Avengers Marvel Legends Series Endgame Power Gauntlet, and Poopsie Rainbow Surprise Dolls. Believe it or not, tube socks from Aunt Zelda did not make the list, but more is at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/parenting/2019/09/25/amazon-top-25-toys-games-for-kids-2019-list-here-for-the-holidays/2366586001/


News from the animal kingdom is always entertaining, so “wow” fellow tailgaters with this. First drop the line: “I was reading my copy of the Australasian Journal of Palaeontology magazine the other day.” Let that settle in. Then put this out there. “Scientists in New Zealand said that they've found fossilized bones from an extinct monster penguin that was about the size of an adult human and swam the oceans 60 million years ago. They said the previously undiscovered species is believed to have stood about 5 feet 2 inches and weighed up to 176 pounds.” Then walk away without further comment. Fun, eh? (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/08/14/human-sized-penguin-monster-bird-once-swam-oceans-scientists-say/2006219001/)


If they call you back for more animal factoids, a good old “gator in the pants” story is sure to fit the bill. Better yet, it actually happened. “A Florida woman pulled an alligator from her pants during a traffic stop. When deputies searched the truck they (also) found 42 striped mud turtles and a softshell turtle in a backpack.” So here's the obvious question you can ask tailgate compatriots. If you were going to put a gator in your pants, what sort of undies would you choose to wear? (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/08/15/florida-woman-who-pulled-gator-pants-traffic-stop-sentenced/2025323001/)


Personal note: The Wexford County Historical Society has included me in their Speaker Series. I consider this quite an honor. “Jim Neff, will present on Kiss In Cadillac, on October 4th at 7 PM.  Find out the history behind this monumental moment in Rock and Roll and Cadillac History!  Free for everyone, but donations appreciated.  Friday, October 4, 2019 at 7 PM – 8 PM, Wexford County Historical Society, 127 Beech St, Cadillac, Michigan 4960.” 


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



Ugly Gerry Font