Fourth of July celebrations are almost upon us. As we emerge from our pandemic bunkers, reuniting with friends and family is uppermost on our agendas. With this in mind, it's a prime opportunity to “wow” folks with some interesting conversation starters. A good way to begin is to lead with the phrase: “Did you know?” 


To wit: Did you know that when flip-flops were introduced to America in the 1950s they were called thongs? That when beach balls hit the scene in 1938 they were only about the size of a hand? That relish first appeared in the English vernacular in 1798 and probably came about as a way to preserve garden vegetables for use during the winter months? That hot sauce goes back as far as Mayan times? Tidbits like these are good to toss out and then let the chatter snowball. (https://www.backthenhistory.com/articles)


There are sure to be music lovers in any group. Did you know that the shortest song to ever hit the rock and roll charts was Napalm Death’s “You Suffer” (in 1987) at 1.316 seconds? Probably more recognizable is the shortest rock and roll song ever to be number one on the charts. The song is “Stay” by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs’ with a length of 97 seconds. “The track landed the number one slot on November 21, 1960, only to be dislodged by Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight” a week later. (https://happymag.tv/the-seven-shortest-1-songs-to-ever-hit-the-charts/)


World records are always interesting. Did you know you can stack M&M's? A British man set Guinness World Record by stacking five M&M's candies.” This would be a fun group activity at a party.  The best part is you get to eat your mistakes. (https://www.arcamax.com/entertainment/weirdnews/s-2532677)


At any gathering, a sports discussion is almost inevitable. Did you know that mud is used to treat every single regulation major league baseball, roughly 240,000 per season? Not only that, it's a specific mud provided by a single family. 


“Mud is a family business. For decades, baseball’s official rule book has required that every ball be rubbed before being used in a game. Bintliff (family) mud is the only substance allowed. A tiny dab is enough to remove the factory gloss from a new ball. Equipment managers rub it on before every game. The mud is found only along a short stretch of a tributary of the Delaware River, with the precise location kept secret from everyone, including MLB.” (https://www.si.com/mlb/2019/08/07/baseball-mud-rawlings)


Well, as you can probably guess, mudding baseballs is hardly an exact process.  This has led pitchers to use various things to better grip the ball. Of course, this is illegal. “Major League Baseball is not only severely cracking down on the use of banned foreign substances, but also is now trying to guarantee there’s consistency in the texture of baseballs.” 


Now in testing, a new machine may be the answer to the mud dilemma – The Ball Mudder.  “This machine applies mud, or any substance MLB wants, to baseballs in a consistent and uniform manner. With the Ball Mudder, the texture and color of the baseballs will not only be the same, but the device will also apply a substance that changes the color of a baseball should a banned foreign substance be applied.” (https://news.yahoo.com/news/mlb-may-fix-baseballs-sticky-102538237.html)


The Fourth of July celebrates patriotism, so the natural question is do you know which states are the most patriotic? “In order to determine where Americans have the most red, white and blue pride, WalletHub compared the states across thirteen key indicators of patriotism.” 


The most patriotic states were: 10) Virginia, 9) Oregon, 8) Minnesota, 7) Wyoming, 6) North Dakota, 5) New Hampshire, 4) Vermont, 3) Maryland, 2) Alaska, and 1) Montana. 


The states ranked least patriotic were: 41) Texas, 42) West Virginia, 43) Arkansas, 44) New Jersey, 45) Illinois, 46) California, 47) Michigan, 48) Connecticut, 49) Florida, and 50) New York. 


I am just the messenger. All the criteria, explanations, categories and graphics are at: https://wallethub.com/edu/most-patriotic-states/13680.


Also from WalletHub, did you know that 150 million hot dogs are eaten each Forth of July? We plan to spend $1.6 billion on Fourth of July beer and wine. Fireworks are part of the scene, but sixty-seven percent of fireworks injuries occur within a month of July 4th. And $5.4 million worth of American flags are  imported annually (mostly from China).


Finally, do you want to hear an Independence Day joke? It seems that there was one little boy in the teacher’s class who really struggled to learn. One day the teacher asked him who signed the Declaration of Independence, and of course he didn’t know. The teacher asked him every day for a week but still he couldn’t give the right answer. Finally, in desperation, she called the boy’s father to come and see her. She said to him, “Your boy won’t tell me who signed the Declaration of Independence.” The father said to his son, “Come here, boy, and sit down.” The boy duly did as he was told and then his dad said to him, “Now if you signed that thing, just admit it so we can get out of here.”


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


 2021's Most Patriotic States in America

(Click on a state to see its ranking.)

Source: WalletHub