Hoopin’ it up

On Saturday morning, 8-year-old Zachary McGaughey had a 10:30 a.m. tip-off time at Prairie Elementary. This was the fourth Saturday morning of the Worthington Area YMCA basketball season, and he eagerly awaits game day on a regular basis.

Naturally, Becca and I — along with the Z-Man’s older sister, Grace — were in attendance, and we watched Zach play what was easily his best game defensively (though, to no great surprise, he was disappointed to make a basket). One other fan was also on hand for the game — Globe sports editor Doug Wolter, whose support was a very pleasant surprise. He even returned to the Prairie gym at 10:30 after first showing up at 9 — that’s because I had casually mentioned to him the night before (mistakenly) that Zach had a game at 9 a.m. Whatta guy.

Zach may love playing basketball, but he also truly enjoys playing video games on my iPad and our Xbox. His gaming most frequently revolves around Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Avengers, Power Rangers, Lego Ninjago and a couple of others that I can’t come up with right now, but last week he ended up picking out a couple of professional sports-themed games from Family Video. One was simulated hockey, which was slightly surprising since he doesn’t play the sport and doesn’t even really enjoy skating. The other: basketball.

Zach asked me last Sunday morning, before church, to come down to the basement with him and watch him play NBA Jam. I was at first an enthusiastic spectator, because I was hoping that perhaps playing a basketball-themed game would somehow give him more of a sense of the flow of the game and maybe offer some sort of lesson on offensive and defensive strategies. Well, no such luck whatsoever.

What I watched was a two-on-two Lakers-vs.-Celtics showdown with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol taking on Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. There were ridiculous, completely unrealistic dunks galore by the Lakers, who Zach was defending, and all kinds of flaming nets after such slams were made. Meanwhile, Zach pretty much just wanted to try to see how far out he could shoot 3-pointers from. (Incidentally, the hockey game he showed me afterward — NHL 14, I believe — was much more realistic (and was even narrated by regular ESPN hockey announcers Gary Thorne and Bill Clement).

Video games notwithstanding, Zach still has a passion for basketball that’s far greater than other sports, with the possible exception of baseball (his favorite switches with the season). This past Sunday afternoon, he went and shot hoops with the neighbor down the street. I had a to-do list and wound up missing out, and instead got sucked in later on with the Mega Basketball app on the iPad.

Grace had topped my seemingly unbeatable Mega Basketball high score months ago, and I’ve spent a little bit of time practically every day trying to beat it. Several times I came close, only to miss multiple shots in the waning seconds and come up just short. Finally, though, I set a new gold standard Sunday night after the Super Bowl, topping Grace’s old mark by 140 points.

The game itself is pretty easy conceptually — you simply shoot different colored balls from a variety of spots on a gym floor. You can get both bonus points and extra time depending on how well you do and which shots go in. Zach, incidentally, doesn’t play this that much, probably because there’s no tangible opponent; you just shoot and shoot and shoot.

Now that I’ve gotten the new high score, I’m more than ready to stop shooting and shooting and shooting for a long time. That said, I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if Grace — who is home on yet another snow day as I type this — has already set a new record.
If so, I’d be inclined to let her keep those honors and stick to something I know I can still beat her at (for now) — a good, old-fashioned game of H-O-R-S-E.

19 years ago

Each year, when late January rolls around, I like to look back on a series of days that marked the beginning of a new life for me.

I know I’ve written in past “Tales” about da tes in my personal history that for whatever reason stick with me. One of those dates is Jan. 28 — which this year represents the 19-year-anniversary of my first day of employment at Dickinson (N.D.) State University.
Prior to that occasion, life had been a bit of a roller coaster. I’d left New York City in the summer of 1995 to be with a then-girlfriend in Erie, Pa., but the relationship quickly fell apart. Managing only temporary employment in Erie, I eventually wound up back on my feet a few months later; I got my first full-time newspaper reporter job with the Dunkirk (N.Y.) Observer.

Work at the Observer started in March 1996 — nearly 20 (!) years ago — and while I liked it well enough, the pay was downright laughable. I’d been working for a more-than-respectable wage not long before — enough to afford renting my own Manhattan apartment — but in Dunkirk the hourly rate was only slightly above the minimum of $4.25. Debt was rapidly piling up, and a change to that cycle was urgently necessary.

That change began to take shape in November, when my mom randomly sent me a clipped advertisement from the Chronicle of Higher Education announcing a vacancy for the position of News Bureau Manager/Sports Information Director at Dickinson State. I applied almost as an afterthought, and was shocked to soon learn that the school was actually interested in flying me out for an interview. I soon adopted the attitude of “if I get asked to take a job in North Dakota, I assume it must be meant to be,” and quickly took the position when it was offered to me.

There was one big thing to do first, though — move halfway across the country. The easy thing (probably too much so, in retrospect) was to ditch the woman I’d been dating for a few weeks, but packing for a 1,500-mile move was a different challenge entirely. I ended up leaving a few things behind in the basement of the business of friends, expecting I’d eventually find a way to retrieve it. That never happened. In the meantime, I haphazardly packed pretty much whatever I could fit into my Chevy Nova and took off on the afternoon of Jan. 22.

I took my time getting to my destination, and ultimately arrived in Dickinson shortly after noon on Jan. 25. I remembering hearing on the radio that temperature was 8-below, and there was wind, too. In fact, wind chills were forecast to approach 60-below that night. What the heck was I thinking?

That first night, I needed groceries, so I drove to a supermarket downtown. There was no ATM in the store, so I asked where the nearest one was — a few blocks away, I was advised. I quickly learned something important; even though I’d done lots of walking in New York City, one shouldn’t even try to walk a couple of blocks in seriously dangerous wind chills. I couldn’t make it to the bank, as I ducked into a store no doubt looking close to my demise. The couple that operated that business would drive to the bank machine and then back to the supermarket — and give me a tour of town in between.

The next day, I watched the Super Bowl alone at the Dickinson Applebee’s. (Green Bay beat New England, 35-21). I don’t recall what I did the next day — Monday — but I started work at DSU on Tuesday the 28th. That first day, I’ve long felt, launched me on the path to where I am now, as I would later take a job at Dickinson’s daily newspaper (which, like the Daily Globe, is owned by Forum Communications Co.) in November 1998, and then arrived at the Globe in April 2001.

As the Grateful Dead would say, “What a long strange it’s been.”

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To the dogs

It has been nearly a year and a half since we added our Shih Tzu mix, Benji, to our family. I wrote a blog shortly after we brought him home from Denison, Iowa, where we purchased him as a rescue from a shelter, and — if I remember correctly — speculated about the trials and tribulations of dog ownership that were soon to come our way. And now, I’ve got to be honest: my attitude about possessing a pooch has definitely evolved considerably since we first brought Benji home and he — within a couple of hours — pooped on the carpet.

I didn’t really want a dog, but I was easily outvoted in the matter. Grace was positively wild about the idea, and after she went through the trouble of (somewhat unexpectedly) writing out answers to various questions we asked about dog ownership, we more or less had no choice to grant our consent. Zach was definitely on board, and Bec was certainly more game than me. I simply couldn’t be the mean dad that stood in the way of a new furry friend.

It wasn’t long before the dog decision was regretted — at different times, to be fair — by everyone in the house. Benji was hyper and didn’t know how to channel extra energy. He got into things. He jumped up and tried to take ill-advised nibbles. He barked. It was, in short, worse than having another baby. I know there were at least one or two occasions where we actually hoped he would take off on us and put us out of our misery. Plus, we also figured he was probably suffering with his less-than-adequate owners, too.

Time passed, though, and Benji — and maybe even his masters — have matured somewhat. It probably helps considerably that Benji is no longer a puppy, and is also (for better or worse) accustomed to his surroundings. He’s still playful, but somehow not quite as irritating. He still finds ways to wreak havoc with stuff that’s not his. (Don’t you dare set your hat and gloves down where he can reach them, ‘cause you’re in for a chase. And the beloved “Benjiroo” recently found a new way to leap from the rocking chair in the entryway to the kitchen counter, which needless to say wasn’t a pleasant development.) He still seemingly eats anything other than his own food (he could likely live on toast crust, for example).

But, he now really likes to snuggle. That’s not a bad thing — at all.

Shortly after we brought Benji home, I told my brother about what we had done. “That’s the worst decision you’ve ever made,” he said — the quote may not be exact, but the gist was unmistakable. He later apologized, and I think I simply laughed hysterically — no doubt because I agreed with his sentiment. When Ian visited at Christmas, however, he and Benji became buddies. When he left, he admitted that he’d miss Benji. And, upon leaving, he gave him a kiss on top of his head.

Sure, Benji still gives us fits, but he’s definitely here to stay at this point. Even I have to admit that’s not so bad a thing.

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Rolls of the dice

Christmas was extra-special at the McGaughey house due to the welcome presence of my brother, sister (technically half-sister, but I’m not a fan of that term) and father. I think it had been 13 years since we’d all celebrated Christmas at the same place, so we tried to make the most of the few days we had together before Ian departed for Arizona and Dad and Kate for upstate New York.

There were some definite highlights over the course of the four days we had — among them being a trip to see the new “Star Wars” movie (well worth it), showing my dad how to use the snowblower (one of the extremely rare times I’ve ever shown anyone how to operate anything mechanical) and, of course, just hanging out and chatting. And we — Dad, Ian and I, anyway — spent plenty of time rolling dice.

Permit me to explain (or try to). Back in around 1978 — or so we calculated during the visit — my father, with a little assistance from his 11-year-old oldest son, invented a dice basketball game. Three dice reveal all the action, with one red die determining the player committing the action (shot, rebound, foul, turnover) and two white dice determining multiple different outcomes. There’s no skill whatsoever involved — one just rolls away and sees what happens — but that’s actually part of the beauty of the game. The real beauty, though, comes from the people each player chooses to put in their lineup.

For instance, when Ian and I faced off against one another, he wrote down a starting five that included a couple of ex-girlfriends, an ex-wife, a current girlfriend and a former co-worker. On his bench: our dad and an old band-mate. My team included my wife Becca, Kate, my mom, and Grace and Zach, with one of Zach’s baseball teammates and Daily Globe sports reporter Zach Hacker coming off the bench.

The whole point of the James Street Basketball Association game (so named because we lived on James Street when it, for the most part, came into its own) is not to outsmart your opponent. Heck, it’s never really about winning, though of course the team that scores the most points does get the victory. It’s about envisioning your players on a basketball court, doing the actions dictated by the dice. Know someone who has never shot hoops or dribbled a basketball in their life? They can star in JSBA, if the dice fall the right way. And it’s always fun to arrange the lineups to, for instance, have relatives, ex-spouses, couples and so forth guarding one another.

Maybe I’ve wasted a bit too much time playing this game over the years (more so during my teen years, mind you, than probably any other era), but I think it’s safe to say I’m quicker than anyone else in my family in connecting the numbers on the dice with who’s playing in the game and what action took place. Because of this “skill,” I’ve more or less become the designated play-by-play guy for any JSBA game. And the real skill is finding ways to throw some analysis in — embellishing traits of each player into the overall commentary. It may sound “out there” in this blog, but we all end up laughing pretty dang hard.

Now, in the aftermath of the Christmas visit, Ian has taken it upon himself to fine-tune JSBA to try to make the overall game action more realistic than it is now. He’s proposing a dramatic overhaul — the use of four dice instead of three, and the introduction of seven-sided and five-sided dice, respectively. It could be awesome. Then again, it could fail as spectacularly as new Coke.

Regardless of what happens with JSBA 2.0, I have no doubt the dice will keep on being rolled for years to come.

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Bowl buffoonery

So, did you hear the big sports news the other day? The Minnesota Golden Gophers are playing in the Oxford Bowl bowl.

Well, not really, though that’s what I’ve taken to calling the Quick Lane Bowl, scheduled for Dec. 28 in Detroit. (Actually, I really like what Zach Hacker is calling it — the Quick Lame Bowl). In that instant classic of a matchup, the 7-5 Central Michigan Chippewas of the Mid-American Conference will face the 5-7 Gophers. Literally dozens of people will probably tune in to watch — if there doesn’t happen to be, say, a really good “Big Bang Theory” rerun on.

The fact that the Gophers got themselves a bowl game is, of course, entirely laughable. Why any team with a 5-7 record should be rewarded with a postseason spot — which comes along with a cash payout — is beyond most hard-core and casual sports fans alike. You think it’s easy to make the playoffs in the NHL and NBA? (Sixteen teams qualify in each league.) This year, the good ol’ FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) will have 80 schools competing in 40 different bowl games. Because of this record number of postseason showdowns, teams that didn’t “bowl qualify” by winning 6 times (usually on a 12-game schedule) still got berths — with the Gophers being one of them.

At least the Gophers get to play in a high-class stadium — Ford Field — in the Quick Lane Bowl. I would have guessed it would be staged in an 8 Mile parking lot. Heck, why not play the game at Trojan Field? Fans would downright pack the place — and given the capacity of the Detroit Lions home field, it would look far better on TV than a stadium that will likely be half-full at best. (Though the mighty Chippewas are from Michigan, so that will probably help. But how many Central Michigan fans can there possibly be, anyway?)

The Quick Lane Bowl is not the only ridiculous sounding postseason college football game on the calendar this year. There’s something called the Cure Bowl set for Dec. 19 — and I don’t think that “Cure” is referring to a cure for boredom, given the matchup pits 6-6 Georgia State against 5-7 San Jose State. I can only hope that the “Cure” being referenced is the fine new wave band, and that lead singer Robert Smith wails away on the National Anthem.

We’ve also got the Arizona Bowl. The Idaho Potato Bowl. The St. Petersburg Bowl. The Belk Bowl. The Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Foster Farms Bowl. The Birmingham Bowl. The GoDaddy Bowl. The Taxslayer Bowl. The Russell Athletic Bowl. Those are but a mere sampling.

It makes me wonder what kind of bowl games we could have around here should our high school teams trade their postseason sectional and district contests for advertiser-sponsored clashes. Who wouldn’t attend the Sanford Health Bowl … or, for that matter, the Avera Bowl? I’d go to both the Hy-Vee Bowl (discounted Caribou coffee would almost be a certainty) as well as the Fareway Foods Bowl — though I’m guessing that game wouldn’t be played on a Sunday. And what about a JBS Bowl? You’d have to believe that a spot would be reserved annually for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

By the same token, given some of the teams that made FBS bowl games this year, couldn’t room have been made somewhere for Minnesota West? Granted, the Bluejays were under .500, but so were the Gophers. Oh wait … they managed to find a way into the playoffs, too, thanks to another team’s last-minute forced forfeiture. Some teams have all the luck.

Happy football viewing, everyone. Perhaps on Dec. 28, rather than watch the Gophers-Chippewas gridiron battle for the ages, I’ll go bowling — literally — instead.

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I am not a crook

Thursday was a day to be thankful for many things — family, food, good health, a good home, a good job. These are all things I often take for granted during the hustle and bustle of a daily routine, but on Thanksgiving I can’t help but be mindful of the good fortune I have in my life.

That “good fortune” includes not being in jail. I exaggerate a little, but let’s just say I broke the law (albeit unwillingly) the other day and lived to tell about it.

It was last Wednesday morning, on my way to work (shortly before 8), that I went into Hy-Vee to pick up a couple of odds and ends. I had not consumed any coffee as of yet, so I strolled over to the Caribou kiosk while noting that a Daily Globe co-worker was behind the counter managing a fairly sizable line of customers.

I reached the front after a few brief minutes and made small talk with my co-worker and a couple of other Caribou staffers after placing my order (large cold press coffee with white chocolate). It was around this time that I asked if I could pay for my groceries at the Caribou stand, but at some point the communication broke down. (Loud coffee machinery? Lack of caffeine on my part? A need to pay a visit to Nicholas Raymo’s place of business on my part? Dear reader, I’d place a significant wager on either of the last two.)

There was another distraction, if there wasn’t already enough sensory overload taking place. The Question of the Day behind the Caribou stand was well within my grasp. “What is the sum of all the Roman numerals?” There were four choices, and I set forth on a determined calculation. M (1,000), D (500), C (100), L (50), X (10), V (5) and I (1) = 1,666.

Yes, I’m a winner!

And, I’m a loser. With all this going … I left without paying.

The funny thing is, I recall thinking that I didn’t actually complete my business transaction while walking out the door, but figured since I didn’t hear any alarms or sirens going, I must be good to go. Then I suddenly heard someone running up behind me — “I’m busted!” I thought — but it was just another shopper hurrying in the cold to her car. So … I just kept going.

Shortly after 2, my co-worker who took my Caribou arrived at the Globe. “Did I ever pay you?” I asked. “No,” she replied, with a small degree of incredulity. And that was that.
Needless to say, many of my colleagues got a kick out of this little story. I was laughing, too, but I couldn’t let this unintentional injustice go unreported. After trying unsuccessfully to reach two supervisor-type folks at the store, I resolved to go in the next morning and get my karma right. I did and paid up — they appreciated my honesty and I appreciated their decision not to prosecute or, perhaps more damaging, ban me from the Caribou stand. All is right with the world.

So, as I sat down to an absolutely delicious Thanksgiving dinner Thursday afternoon, I was thankful for many things. And, if I needed to run to the grocery store for, say, a fresh can of whipped cream for the pumpkin pie, I wouldn’t be looked at like a felon.

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Running (not so) wild

I remember being in my early college years and heading west from upstate New York to Nisswa — where my stepmother’s parents lived at the time — for Christmas vacation, and going for a long run down some country roads. I don’t recall the distance, but it seems my dad was pretty impressed. “You’re a runner, Ryan!” he probably announced to me more than once.

I had run a little bit of cross country in college, working out with the school team but never taking part in any competitive meets. I wasn’t very goal-oriented at that time; I think part of the reason I ran then was because my dad had told me several times that I was good at it and should keep pursuing it. This way of thinking had evolved some by my early- to mid-20s, when I started to run for both physical fitness and to be alone with my thoughts. But despite enjoying this type of exercise, good habits always seemed to fall by the wayside for one reason or another.

Over the last decade or so, it’s been more of the same when it comes to running. A few years back, I trained relatively rigorously for three months or so in order to run with my dad on King Turkey Day (and that was just the 5K run/walk event, not the 10K). I felt great afterward… for about 20 minutes. I got home, bent down to pick up who-knows-what on the floor and strained my back something painful. It was only an issue for a few days (local chiropractor Jake Roethler essentially beat me back into tip-top shape), but I fell out of the running habit and for whatever reason couldn’t get back in it.

A few months later, I felt determined to try again. I remember going for a good run my first time back out, even though I was exhausted afterward and a bit disappointed by my lack of distance. But that would come, right? Well, my left foot began acting up, and it became too uncomfortable to keep applying the repetitive pressure on it that running requires. So… again, I stopped.

Fast forward to a couple months ago. My wife and I had given ourselves an exercise challenge of sorts, which is something I clearly required. I knew I needed to stop being so sedentary when it came to working out, but the fear of having to give our dog a bath should I lose the challenge got me off my behind. I’ve done lots of cardio work at the Y since, as well as some bike riding (another love — although my dream a couple years ago of riding in RAGBRAI has yet to come to fruition) and feel like I’m at least halfway (OK, maybe quarterway) decent shape. But… I hadn’t run.

Then, a few days ago, Grace asked me to run a mile-long event with her at the middle school. It would be on Halloween morning, and she was excited about it. How on earth was I going to turn my 10-year-old daughter down on a run together? I wasn’t so worried about the distance endurance-wise — after all, it was only a mile, and I had been exercising — but I was concerned about my foot. I do have some good cushion inside all my shoes for extra support, but running would be a different kind of test for that support.
In the end, it all turned out great. I made it through just fine, with the biggest challenge probably being the low-40s temperature with light rain and a fair amount of wind to boot. I was a little sore afterward, but that pain was not necessarily concentrated in my foot. I must also brag that I came in first in my age division; OK, I was the only one in my age division, but who cares?

The best thing about Saturday morning’s run? Grace whipped me pretty good. She was off the starting line like a cannon and ended up outdistancing me by a sizable margin. It’s often said that when children grow up, they became their parents, and I heard myself afterward proclaiming proudly, “You’re a runner, Grace!” And you know what? Regardless of whether she’s really one or not, it’s not a bad thing to be by any means.

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Rites of fall

Becca and I were out in the backyard late Saturday morning, shovel and rake in hand. We even enlisted the assistance of the kids, if only to get them warmed up for what we hope will be increased responsibilities as they grow older.

After all, when it comes to fall, it’s not a terrible idea to have all hands on deck.
I’ll never forget when we moved to our current Worthington home. It was Halloween 2013 — a Thursday — and Becca’s parents were due to arrive the next day to help us get things situated and (reasonably) organized. That Saturday, I spent nearly the entire day raking leaves in a back yard many times larger than what we had owned before. And then, late that Saturday night, the wind picked up significantly and left me with leaves far more in number than what I had bagged up the previous day. I threw my hands in the air in dismay — and was out in the yard the following weekend.

Both kids help a little bit now, but it’s still definitely faster for us grownups to get the outdoor chores accomplished, in large part, on our own. That said, on Saturday, Grace and Zach were out with their own rake and shovel, assisting with leaf cleanup and getting our garden area dug up for winter. Zach called it our harvest, which I still find funny since our land is not even a postage stamp compared to the acreages throughout the region. We did get a few green peppers out of the garden, which we had all but written off a couple of weeks beforehand, but this year’s bounty definitely wasn’t as plentiful as that of 2014.

Thank goodness, indeed, for our area’s farmers.

Anyway, both the front and back yards got their share of work Saturday, and a trip home for lunch Monday only confirmed the usual aftermath of such efforts. Yes, there’s more to rake (or mulch, I suppose, if I so choose). The garage had been clean, too — Bec did that work — but the dang door is broken (better call someone on that), and now there’s a bunch of leaves and dust back in there. I suppose I could check the gutters soon; who knows how many leaves, twigs and other debris have already settled in there in the past few days? (Never mind that it has been a good three months or so since I’ve checked.) And now Bec said she wants to me to look into installing new insulation inside the garage, or some such thing. I say “some such thing” because I struggle with the assembly of one of my son’s Lego toys, for pity’s sake.

The thing is, fall always seems to easily become a season of unappealing chore lists. I suppose there are actually unappealing chores for every season, but the reason why I probably dread those for fall is that it only means winter is next. That only brings to mind another task I need to get done: make sure the snowblower (if it were somehow human, I think it would honestly laugh at me) is in working and cooperative order for the upcoming El Niño extravaganza. Oh, how I wish we had a timeshare somewhere.

Perhaps this is the winter I can teach the kids how to use the snowblower. You know that point I made earlier about getting them “warmed up for what we hope will be increased responsibilities”?

Yeah, right. I think the timeshare is less of a fantasy than Zach or Grace pushing around that big red machine. I’d better just suck it up and take heart that spring — and a new, likely-more-appealing list — will eventually arrive.

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Numbers game

“Dad, what’s 1 + 1?” Zach will ask.

Being a second-grader, my son has known the answer to this simple question for a long time already. It’s his way of telling me that he has got far more mathematical riddles on his mind.

“Two,” I will reply, and I will barely have the response out of my mouth when Z will shoot back, “What’s 2 + 2?”

“Four,” I’ll state, fully prepared for the rapid-fire mathematical inquiries about to ensue. Because, without fail, the “2 + 2” question will be followed by queries regarding “4 + 4,” “8 + 8,” “16 + 16” and so on. I think we’ve gone as far as “4,096 + 4,096” before he decides he’s had enough numerical exercise.

I’ll admit to the occasional small degree of irritation when Zach starts this little math game, but I’ll always play along. Why? Because it brings to mind some of my own youthful obsessions.

I loved numbers, too, when I was in elementary school, and continued to excel in math all the way up until my sophomore year of high school. That’s when I had to take geometry, an entirely different pursuit which, instead of involving numbers and words, pertained to — ugh! — angles and proofs. Given that it’s completely fair to say I still struggle with simple assembly instructions for nearly any type of product, high-school geometry was a formidable battle.

But numbers …. I loved not just simple math, but how numbers applied to the world around me. When I was in, I’m guessing, sixth grade, I could tell you batting averages and earned run averages of all the New York Yankees (instead of crossing over to the dark side, I started there before soon seeing the light). In fact, most of the important American League statistical information was occupying at least a small portion of my brain. (It should be added that the opposite sex had yet to show up on my radar.) I had already stopped playing Little League baseball by this time, but I kept showing up at my former coach’s practices and games so I could keep track of all the players’ stats.

Perhaps it’s too early to know, but Zach has already shown some tendencies toward these same fascinations. He was able to correctly recall the number of home runs various Minnesota Twins starters had hit as the 2015 season went on. He did this with very little encouragement on my part — he was simply interested. Are individual batting averages next on the horizon?

There are other indications of a love for numbers. In late August, for instance, we learned the “Avengers: Age of Ultron” movie would be released on DVD on Oct. 2. From that day forward, he’d either ask or tell me how many days were left. He’s been doing this with movies for a long time now — I remember him being 2 and asking me how many days it was before “Cars 2” came out at the theater, with the premiere date firmly planted in his memory.

Other things are sticking well in his memory, too. Before he went to school this morning, he asked me the “1 + 1” question again. I didn’t have to answer, though; he rolled through the game all by himself all the way to “1,024 + 1,024.” It was fairly impressive.

By the way, Zach, in case you’re reading this, it’s seven more days until you know what …

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Gobbling up a great time

While I haven’t experienced nearly as many King Turkey Days as — for example — my colleague Beth Rickers, I feel like I’ve attended enough to know if it’s been a particularly good festival.

I feel like this past weekend’s KTD was one of the best, if not the best, of the 15 Turkey Days I’ve attended. Driving in the Grand Parade Saturday afternoon, it seemed as if the streets were lined with more people than I’d ever seen along the route. I later heard that the crowd was estimated as the biggest in at least 10 years, so I guess that hunch was a good one. (It would be interesting to go back and see estimated attendance at the parade from other years. Looking at old black-and-white photographs, it seems like the crowds may have been even bigger “back in the day.”)

Saturday’s weather certainly didn’t hurt, that’s for sure. After a somewhat chilly and damp Friday, the forecast promised sunny skies, and no one could have been disappointed. One couldn’t have asked for much better conditions for an early morning 5K walk, and a good number of participants of all ages showed up for a leisurely stroll. That seemed to set the tone for the rest of the day, as there seemed to be substantial quantities of people everywhere — the pancake breakfast (no great surprise), along 10th Street as the 10K runners neared and crossed the finish line, at the Great Gobbler Gallop (we’re halfway to winning the Traveling Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph!), all throughout the parade route and at the county fairgrounds afterward. It was, quite simply, a great day to be in Worthington.

It also was a good day for the McGaughey family, although a little harried at times.
Early Saturday, I went over to a local car dealership to get a pickup I was to drive in the parade. It was brand new (the odometer said 16 miles), ultra-shiny red and loaded with all kinds of amenities; probably the fanciest vehicle of any kind I’d driven. Given that I always get a little nervous when driving someone else’s car, anyway, I just tried to take a few deep breaths and drive as I normally would — especially when I got downtown and ended up having to do a long detour because I missed the proper turn to get to where I was to park before the parade.

Then there was a matter of a hitch, and pulling one. This was new territory for me, as I’d never pulled so much as a small U-Haul in my life. I believe it was Bob Bristow who graciously took care of the hitch attachment for me, but it’s almost too bad that Bob — who was kept plenty busy with his parade committee responsibilities — couldn’t have done the driving, too. It wasn’t like driving forward at the top speed of perhaps 4 mph was excessively difficult; it was backing up and turning around a couple of different times to get properly positioned to begin. Between having my 8-year-old son, Zach, chatting up a storm in the front seat, to people I didn’t know on the street trying to direct me (I’m sorry if I seemed in any way abrupt; I was a little tense!), to having very young Kiddie Parade winners and (thankfully) their parents on the hitch while attempting these maneuvers … well, let’s just say it was a relief to turn on 10th Street, and now it was more or less a straight shot the rest of the way. And it wound up being all good — and yes, I’d do the whole thing again next year if asked.

There was also the matter of getting our 10-year-old daughter, Grace, from one parade float to another. The Kiddie Parade entry was 15A, so I got through the parade on that, dropped the family I was carrying off back downtown, drove the truck and trailer back to a neighbor’s house, got my car and went with Zach back to as close to the end of the parade route as we could. I got there just in time to get Grace, who as Winterfest Princess was riding in a royalty float at No. 49, and whisked her back to catch up with The Dance Academy float at No. 82. I’m sure there were plenty of other parents who had similar maneuvers over the course of the parade. It’s a tad wild and hectic, but it really was a remarkable parade, and all that shuttling around probably helps make it so.

“Wild” would certainly not describe our King Turkey Day Saturday night. We took the kids to the fairgrounds for about an hour and a half, and then we were all (well, not Grace) ready to head home and simply relax.

We now should have more than enough time to recover for King Turkey Day 2016.

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