Events and Holidays

It’s the Super Bo… Excuse me; the “Sensational Basin”!
Facts and history from the most intensely-trademarked event in sports.

The Super Bowl®, as you probably already know, is the annual, intensely-trademarked championship game held at the end of each decade-long season of professional American football. It should not be confused with the lesser-known Supra Bowl, which is held by disgruntled ex-Toyota executives by smashing Toyota Supras into each other in the parking lot of Toyota headquarters. The game is played in early February, approximately three weeks after all 48 playoff games have been completed, giving each team ample time to come up with an appropriate scandal for Good Morning America to feverishly talk about.

History (and Velveeta)

[pullquote type=”right”]The first Super Bowl was held in 1967, back when players had first names such as “Lem” and “Deacon”, and last names with about as many vowels as they had remaining teeth.[/pullquote]The first Super Bowl was held in 1967, back when players had first names such as “Lem” and “Deacon“, and last names with about as many vowels as they had remaining teeth. It was created as an agreement between the NFL and its rival league, the AFL-CIO, to have each league’s champion play each other to determine, via duly elected state and local bodies and a General Board-approved Executive Council made from Constituency Groups and Allied Organizations, whether or not to disaffiliate with the Longshoremen’s Local 101, or do a quick kick on third down. This thorny arrangement was done away with in subsequent years, and by 1970, the current, combined form of the NFL was established, and “Super Bowl” became the name used by the sports media, narrowly beating out “Annual Multi-Million Dollar Enormous Guys Smashing Into Each Other Extravaganza (featuring Aerosmith)”. Since then, the Super Bowl has grown in popularity such that it is now considered an unofficial national holiday, much like the first day of school for parents, or that extra hour we get in the fall because of Daylight Saving Time. It is celebrated by most Americans with all of the pride and passion that represents the American spirit, which is to say, with Doritos and that hot dip made with Velveeta.

You mean they also play a football game?

The event has become almost as famous for its commercials as for the game, with companies paying up to $4.5 million a spot to have animated cats, frogs, horses or dogs try to sell us more carbonated brown sugar-water or cheese-flavored dried corn paste. During the first Super Bowl, a 30-second commercial cost about $40,000. In comparison, during Super Bowl XLVIII last year, a .03-second commercial cost only $12.95 (adjusted for inflation). Just as with commercials, the halftime show has evolved from its simple origins, when local boys would mill about on the field looking for missing player’s teeth as souvenirs, while the Arcadia High School Drill Team and Flag Girls performed. Modern audiences now expect modern spectacles involving either ancient, creaking musicians or a current pop star you’ll struggle to remember in three years, combined with bizarre, seizure-inducing light shows.

Super Bowl Facts

  • In 2010, Super Bowl XLIV became the most-watched television show in history, unseating the M*A*S*H series finale where Hawkeye pulls the football away from BJ just before he’s going to kick it.
  • Over 8 million pounds of guacamole is consumed on Super Bowl Sunday, enough to cover the playing surface of Lambeau Field with lots of gross, slippery, mashed avocados.
  • Super Bowl Sunday is one of the largest food consumption days of the year, behind only Thanksgiving and the day after you get your colonoscopy.
  • The owner of the Kansas City Chiefs first used the term “Super Bowl” during the original merger meetings between the NFL and AFL. He was surprised to see it picked up by the press as the chosen descriptor for the game, as he was only making an off-handed remark regarding the quality of the bathroom fixtures in the executive meeting offices.
  • When the Green Bay Packers won the first Super Bowl, each player received a $15,000 bonus, almost enough to cover the medical bills from their injuries.
  • Roman numerals are used to designate the year of each Super Bowl (such as Super Bowl XXIVIXXX) because the drafters of the original game agreement were stuck up Latin professors.
  • The Lombardi Trophy, given to the winner of the game, is 21 inches high, weighs seven pounds, and impossible to get fingerprints off of.
  • There are 72 footballs used for each Super Bowl, half of which are inflated.
Photo credit Daniel X. O’Neil cc

Prognosticating Hedgehogs and Whistle Pigs (Groundhog Day)
We predict you will experience six more minutes of the history of Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day (Canadian French: Jour de la Marmotte [“Marmot Soup”] and Pennsylvania German: GrundsaudaagMurmeltiertag [“Mumble Mumble Mumble Groundhog”]) is celebrated every February 2nd, primarily in the United States, but also in Canada, where they have to pry the frozen groundhog out the ground with a crowbar. Popular folklore says the if it is sunny when the groundhog emerges from his den, there will be six more weeks of winter, but if it is cloudy, then the groundhog will demand two tickets to Orlando for him and his groundhog wife or else he will lie and say it is sunny.

History: scared bears and badgers

[pullquote type=”right”]Groundhog Day also has some historical relationships to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, who I think was that guy in the painting in “Ghostbusters Two”[/pullquote]The celebration has its roots in European tradition where a badger or a scared bear — excuse me, sacred bear — was the animal doing the weather forecast. The Germans, for example, concluded that if the sun was shining on Candlemas Day or February 2, then a hedgehog would cast a shadow, therefore predicting six more weeks of weather called the “Second Winter”, now more commonly known as “Spring Break in Cancun”. Groundhog Day also has some historical relationships to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, who I think was that guy in the painting in “Ghostbusters Two”, and St. Swithun’s Day (Patron Saint of Lisps), which is celebrated in July, when it’s frankly pretty easy to tell whether spring is going to be early or not. In southeastern Pennsylvania, the day is celebrated by Groundhog Lodges, delicate structures made entirely out of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, where men of German heritage gather to not only hear the groundhog make its annual prognostication, but also to speak only in a specific Pennsylvania German dialect. Anyone who speaks English has to pay a penalty, usually in the form of having to drink more Pabst Blue Ribbon beer while trying to pronounce the word “prognostication.”

Don’t mess with Phil

The cultural center for Groundhog Day is, of course, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where each year, the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil is pulled from his comfortable recliner where he has been watching NFL Film’s “Greatest Super Bowls”, and coerced into giving an extremely important weather prediction without, apparently, any formal meteorological training of any kind. According to Groundhog Day organizers, Phil is accurate 75% to 90% of the time, except when he is incorrect 45% of the time, with 25% of those occurring because of indigestion. A rival Canadian study, however, showed that for 13 cities in the past 40 years, only 37% of the weather predicted were accurate, providing further evidence that Canadians must be incredibly bored or just plain spiteful.

Groundhog Day facts

  • Groundhog Day was the featured theme in the movie of the same name, where Bill Murray is slowly driven crazy by having to listen to Sonny and Cher sing “I Got You, Babe” every day.
  • During Prohibition, Punxsutawney Phil threatened the community with 60 weeks of winter if he wasn’t allowed a drink. The town gave in to his demands, and soon hundreds of drunken groundhogs and a few inebriated badgers swarmed the town demanding to see Andie MacDowell.
  • In 1986, Punxsutawney Phil traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with President Ronald Reagan, where he was mistaken for Tip O’Neill and immediately made ambassador to China.
  • Phil appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1995, where he excitedly instructed the crowd to reach under their seats, where they discovered some wild grasses and berries.
  • The groundhog is sometimes called a “hedgehog”, “woodchuck”, or “whistle pig”, which is now my new favorite potential band name.
  • Other cities have their own version of Punxsutawney Phil, such as New York City’s “Pothole Pete” and Canada’s albino groundhog named “Wiarton Willie”. Okay, Canada, now I think you’re just starting to make stuff up.
Photo credit Allessandro M.

More Than Just Ostrich Racing and Horse Diapers (the Rose Parade)
Find out the real, if suspiciously un-fact-filled, history of the Rose Parade.

The Rose Parade, also known as the “Rose Parade presented by Honda”, also known as “The Rose Parade (This Spot Available Next Year for $100,000,000)”, is held in Pasadena, California every year on New Year’s Day. It is seen by the hundreds of thousands of people who line the streets each year, plus millions more in over 100 countries, and also by any sentient life on Alpha Centauri who are just now seeing the 2012 broadcast, for which we say, sorry about the Occupy Octopus float; it was just a temporary thing going on that year.

Transplanted Easterners and walrus mustaches

The parade originated way back in 1890, before there may have even been marching bands, which meant it was much shorter, and tradition has it it originated when two guys driving a flower cart happened to turn down the wrong street, causing a parade to break out. Actually, it was started by transplanted Easterners who were members of the Valley Hunt Club and wanted to show off the mild climate of California by showcasing a festival of flowers. As Club member Professor Charles Holder announced, probably through one of those cool walrus mustaches they wore back then, “In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise, and, who knows, maybe Honda will sponsor it someday.” And so they did, and the rest, as they usually don’t say, is not history, because we have to tell you about the ostrich races yet.

[pullquote type=”right”]The club organized a parade consisting of carriages covered in flowers, most stolen from their neighbor’s yards.[/pullquote]The club organized a parade consisting of carriages covered in flowers, most stolen from their neighbor’s yards, and then featured polo matches, foot races and a game of tug-of-war over a vat of fresh orange juice. The professor, whose mustache was now probably twitching with excitement, proclaimed it to be the “Tournament of Roses”, right before being run over by a polo horse. Motorized floats and marching bands were added over the next few years, although, since cars had only just been invented and could only go 4 miles per hour, the parade took over 3 days to finish. By 1900, the event had grown too large for the Valley Hunt Club to handle and the “Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association” was formed to handle the expansion. Someone must have spiked the orange juice, because for the next few years the event included such things as ostrich races, bronco busting, and a race between a camel and an elephant, which ended in tragedy when the camel crashed into a wall and burst into flames.

The game – get to the game part

The first football game associated with the Tournament of Roses was played on January 1, 1902, and called the “Tournament East-West Football Game”. It was played by the only two football teams in existence at the time; the Stanford No-Helmets and a rugby team from UCLA that had lost a bet. The next game wasn’t played until 1916, but has been played every year since, and is now considered “The Grandaddy of Them All”, although there are still a few paternity suits pending.

Hummus floats?

The modern parade is 5.5 miles of colorful, flowered floats, majestic marching bands, and pooping horses in diapers, which is also an awesome high school garage band name. The original flower-decorated carriages have long since evolved into extravagant, highly sophisticated battle machines capable of destroying up to 5 daffodil fields in an hour. Most are built by Professional Float Builders, who have all gone to Professional Float Builder College, after dropping out as philosophy majors at Cal Tech. The parade rules state that the float’s surface must be covered only in natural materials, such as flowers, plants, plant-like flowers, seaweeds that looks like flowers, seeds that eventually will become flowers, bark, vegetables, tubers, muskrats, hummus, or those big nuts you get in the nut assortment that no one ever eats because they’re too hard to crack open.

We hope these little-known facts will enhance your viewing of the parade this year, that is, if you woke up in time to see it, but if you didn’t, you missed a great ostrich race.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the free book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

6 Christmas Decorating Styles To Avoid
The dubious adventures of Dancing Hula Santa and Bam Bam Baby Jesus

One of the unspoken rules of home ownership, such as “never shovel your snow into your neighbor’s open car window”, is that you must decorate your yard every holiday season. For most of us, this consists of tastefully hanging a string of icicle lights over the garage door while sacrificing a few extremities to the sub-zero weather. However, some of you may be tempted to take it to the next level this year, so we’re providing a helpful guide to 6 types of decoration styles you may want to avoid in order to keep your neighbors and save your marriage.



[pullquote type=”right”]’Tis better to not have brought down the property values of your neighborhood than ever to have decorated at all”[/pullquote]These decorators just throw up a bunch of random multi-colored LED lights they just got on sale at Target on the nearest pine tree, then stick their traditional rotating mechanical Laughing Santa in the yard and call it good. There ARE bowl games to watch, after all. However, to mangle Sir Alfred Lloyd Tennyson, “‘Tis better to not have brought down the property values of your neighborhood than ever to have decorated at all”. Do not emulate them.


Meticulous Decoration Extroverts

These people spend all fall poring through Christmas design catalogs looking for just the right shade of blue twinkling stars to match the hand-made Austrian icicle lights they got last year. Each wreath and bow are meticulously placed to accent the overall theme of “See? I Should Have Been An Interior Decorator Instead Of A Bank Teller”. They are usually women paired with slump-shouldered husbands with depleted credit cards and a little too much attention to the liquor cabinet.


Historically Inaccurate Junk Lovers

Most of their decorations have been collected from yard sales in July which are then stuffed into the garage attic. They consist of singing beavers with candy canes, 18th century carolers with colors so faded they look like anemic ghosts, animated Santas from the 70’s so broken down they look like they’re frantically beating their reindeer, placed next to puzzling Flintstones-themed manger scenes with half the bulbs missing and Bam-Bam as baby Jesus.


Vomitous Eye-Abusing All-Out Holiday Extravaganza

These are the rare neighbors who have made a career out of annoying everyone else on the block by going all out. Their main goal is to get on the local news and say, with a tear in their eye, how special it is to them that people enjoy all of their hard work, because their daddy, who was an electrician and started all of this couldn’t help this year because a 400-pound plaster Abominable Snow Monster fell off the truck onto his bad leg he hurt the year before when he fell off the roof inflating the Dancing Hula Santa.


Traditional Or Die!

Forget these garish “LED” light monstrosities; give us the old days, when christmas bulbs were the size of kumquats and your resulting electric bill made you eat bologna sandwiches all January. These folks will either be your kindly old grandparent neighbors who have been lovingly replacing the same 30 bulbs for 50 years, or the hipster couple who just moved in and like to blare their vintage vinyl “Andy Williams Christmas Album” while decorating their Earth-Mother Holiday Topiary with free-range tinsel and beeswax candles.


The Inflators

These citizens have decided to utilize the latest advances in inflatable decorations to turn their front yards into a discombobulated, puffed-up holiday horror for four weeks. Watch as Rudolph does vain battle against a snowman having a seizure. Marvel, as you never knew Yoda was one of the Wise Men. Expect to get little sleep as their yard will sound like two scared jumbo jets fighting with their tails tied together.

If you happen to fall into one of these categories, we apologize. Just be ready for our exciting life-size inflatable Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria on Columbus Day.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

Photo Credit: drp cc

Black Friday Survival Guide for Men
Our attempt at helping you survive another year of cellulite massager sales.

[pullquote type=”right”]You will huddle in your bed, Male Non-Shopper, in your faded Sammy Hagar t-shirt, while the sound of rending coupons, overturned carts and barking shoppers rings in the streets.[/pullquote]How do we even speak of this day, this one day of the year where Shopping rules all, where even time bends and even stops according to Its will, as shoppers, drone-like, emerge from their homes at 12:01 am and stream to The Mall in long, chugging lines of light-blue minivans. You will huddle in your bed, Male Non-Shopper, in your faded Sammy Hagar t-shirt, while the sound of rending coupons, overturned carts and barking shoppers rings in the streets. Pull the covers over your head, for this day does not exist for you. Avert your eyes, for rabid discount shoppers, fully fitted for battle, are a sight to be kept in the dark realm of nightmares, next to doing your tax returns and botched colonoscopies. Do not be tempted to taste the fruit of this dark day, no matter how many teenagers beg you to drive them to The Mall with promises of doing the dishes for a month and picking up the dog poop and driving their brother to his stupid soccer practice even though he embarrasses them in front of their friends with his booger jokes. For once you taste this bitter fruit, you will understand the difference between good and evil, with good being anything but shopping and evil being a 30% off coupon at Kohl’s plus Kohl’s cash plus a sale item returned for full retail price plus a misplaced $80 dress on the sale rack that no one else saw OMG.

But it will come, surely as dinner-time election year robo-calls, so it’s best to be ready. Here are some ideas on how to avoid it.

Warning: your best chance might involve dealing with Congress


Try starting a new tradition called “Let’s Pretend We’re A Colonial Family This Week And Wear Buckles On Our Shoes And Also Not Use Electronics Or Any Modern Means Of Communication Of Any Kind (Including Those New Smart Watches) That Could Transmit Hyperventilating Black Friday Ads”. This will buy you one, maybe two days, which will allow you enough time to brick yourself up in the cellar until Saturday.


Move to Washington, D.C. and begin a well-funded congressional lobbyist group organized to convince House and Senate members to formulate and pass a bill regulating the sales hours of any store that sells talking bathroom scales on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Send the president a nice letter saying “For the sanity of mankind, please don’t veto.” This may take some time.


Hit yourself on the head with the Shiatsu Neck Massager with Kung Fu Grip your wife bought for 70% off at last year’s Black Friday sale and pretend you no longer speak your native language.


Slash your car’s tires.

Where do we go from here?

But this may all just be delaying the inevitable. Who knows; by the time you read this, the Retail Sales Mongering Industry may have decided that Black “Friday” is just too limiting, and they will have successfully lobbied the government for Thanksgiving to be moved to October, so they can have the whole month of “Black November” in which to sell their 30% off foot wax baths and last-years’ Honey Boo Boo T-shirts; or, maybe all of winter; yes! “Black Winter”, where shopping becomes mandatory, and Fed Ex vans full of baton-wielding Target checkout kids with “Can I Help?” buttons roust you out of your home at midnight and drag you to Wal-Mart, where if you don’t buy at least 4 Cellulite Massagers they confiscate your children and send them to work in the Foot Wax Bath Factory in China and — and — See? That’s what shopping does to a man. Also, “Black Winter” is a good name for a High School Celtic Death Metal band.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Shopping Survival Guide for Men[/feature_headline]

Lions and Turkeys and Eels, Oh My! (Thanksgiving)
A slightly historical synopsis of our most belt-loosening holiday.

Thanksgiving Day, as like many American holidays, has morphed from its original intention as an expression of thanks to a Creator for our basic needs, into screaming at the TV because the Cowboys fumbled on the 2 yard line. But Thanksgiving’s humble beginnings beg us to remember how blessed we are that the majority of us have a roof over our heads, plenty of saturated fats to eat and the Underdog balloon to watch bonk into a light pole at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. To uncover the roots of Thanksgiving, we must dig deep into the soil of America’s history, past the grubs of revisionism and earthworms of speciousness, around the cheap sprinkler systems of rich colonial heritage you installed yourself last spring because you wanted to save money but now it leaks worse than the dog, and into the bedrock of some other dirt metaphor, to discover that analogies only go so far, and it is time for facts.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”asterisk”]You might also like “The 5 Life Stages of Halloween”[/feature_headline]

Here comes the eel part

[pullquote type=”right”]Thanksgiving is based on the celebration the first colonists at Plymouth had after a successful harvest in the year 1621 (Official Motto: “How Long Do We Have To Wear Buckles On Our Shoes Again?”).[/pullquote]As we all learned in grade school while we made turkeys by tracing our hands, Thanksgiving is based on the celebration the first colonists at Plymouth had after a successful harvest in the year 1621 (Official Motto: “How Long Do We Have To Wear Buckles On Our Shoes Again?”). It was attended by 53 colonists, or, as John Wayne called them, “pilgrims“, as well as by 90 Native Americans. The well-known Native American Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn, as well as serving as interpreter, no doubt laughing along with the rest of his tribe as the crazy Pilgrims actually ate the eel. In the following years, other thanksgivings were also held to celebrate military victories, adoptions of state constitutions, and the fact that people didn’t have to eat eel any more. The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was given by the Continental Congress in 1777, where Samuel Adams, the inventor of beer, proclaimed: “That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion, except, I guess, for ‘Football’ whenever that may be Invented, and, also, for Parade Gatherings featuring Inflatable Bullwinkles.”

Thanksgiving traditions

Thanksgiving became an official Federal holiday in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26, right before the Lions lose to whomever they’re playing that year. It is celebrated the fourth Thursday of November, and traditionally marks the 15th week of Christmas shopping. Turkey is, of course, the traditional main dish of Thanksgiving, as well as pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, napkin rings your mom only uses once a year, dusty wax pilgrim candles, and that big lump of cranberry sauce that looks like the inside of a can. The traditional presidential “pardoning of the turkey” was begun by Ronald Reagan in 1987, where a turkey presented by the National Turkey Federation (Official Motto: “We Know They Have Those Ugly Neck Things But They Still Taste Great!”). It got off to a shaky start, as the pardoned turkey immediately rushed out and robbed a liquor store.

However you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, whether with corn or eels, we hope you remember to be grateful for all of your blessings, unless you are a Lions fan, in which case, we’re terribly, terribly sorry.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

Photo Credit: richcianci cc