Jewish World Review March 23, 2004 / 1 Nissan, 5764

Jeff Elder

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The first AP college basketball poll; U.S. presidents who changed their names; cutting hair away from an old English sheepdog's eyes; more


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: When was the first AP college basketball poll introduced, and who was the top-ranked team? - Jeff Hinson

A: Jeff, before I address your question, I want to offer you this piece of advice: Take a long lunch. I'll explain in a minute.

The Associated Press college hoops poll started during the 1948-49 season, and Kentucky was declared No. 1. (Kentucky went on to win the national championship, as it had the year before.)

How were the first rankings devised? Coaches drawn to New York for top college match-ups at Madison Square Garden would gather at Leone's, a Manhattan restaurant, to chew over the best teams they'd seen around the country. AP reporters used this lunchtime conversation to compile the rankings.

Forget RPI (today's high-tech Rating Percentage Index), think BLTs. Sounds like a gentler age to me.

So go to lunch. You might devise a tradition like the college hoops poll.

If, like me and 16 million other Americans, you're happily studying up for your fantasy baseball draft, you can also thank long lunches.

In 1980, writer and editor Dan Okrent loitered around Manhattan's La Rotisserie Francaise restaurant with his pals, devising a league in which they could own and manage their own baseball teams comprised of actual players. For years, fantasy baseball was referred to as rotisserie league baseball because of the now-defunct eatery where it was born.

Okrent, currently the ombudsman of the New York Times, has also served as managing editor at Life magazine and has written critically acclaimed books. But he's not known for that.

"Between now and the time I die," he once said, "if I find a cure for cancer and the end of the conflicts in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, the obituary will say, `Okrent dies, invented rotisserie baseball.'"

An immortal claim to fame - all because he hung out at a restaurant with his buddies.

Now Jeff, what was the top television show of the `90s? "Seinfeld," right? TV Guide ranked the sitcom No. 1 on its 2002 list of the "50 Greatest Shows of All Time."

And what did Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine like to do? Hang out at the coffee shop, talking.

I'm tellin' ya, Jeff, I sense greatness in you. You just need to kick back in a booth and get yourself a bottomless cup of inspiration.

(The waitress and I want 10 percent.)

— — —

Q: What U.S. presidents changed their names? - Ray Otstott, Charlotte, N.C.

A: Ray, first let me reassure you that Millard Fillmore was his real name. I know that's a load off your mind.

Seven presidents had their names changed, some in infancy, others in adulthood:

— Ulysses Simpson Grant - changed from Hiram Ulysses Grant. (Good move.)

— Grover Cleveland - changed from Stephen Grover Cleveland.

— Woodrow Wilson - changed from Thomas Woodrow Wilson.

— Calvin Coolidge - changed from John Calvin Coolidge.

— Dwight David Eisenhower - changed from David Dwight Eisenhower. (Ahh, the ol' switcheroo.)

— Gerald Rudolph Ford - changed from Leslie King Jr. when his mother remarried and his stepfather legally adopted him. (Leslie?)

— William Jefferson Clinton - changed from William Jefferson Blythe when his mother remarried and his stepfather adopted him.

Some of those changes are small, but changing your name can change your image. Would Elle MacPherson seem as glamorous under her birth name of Eleanor Gow? Then again, are you really surprised to learn Anna Nicole Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan? SOURCES: Internet Public Library, Time magazine

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Q: Is it true that one shouldn't cut the hair away from an old English sheepdog's eyes? — Susan Walker

A: Susan, it's a myth that old English sheepdogs need that hair to filter sunlight from their sensitive eyes. "That's an old wives' tale, that they'll go blind," says Christianna Gaburri, a dog groomer and member of the board of directors of the Old English Sheepdog Club of America. In fact, "they bump into things" if you don't trim or tie up the hair in front of their eyes, she says.

Originally the breed had a much shorter and less dense coat than we see on show dogs today. When they were herding dogs, some hair was kept around their eyes to filter dust kicked up by the sheep. But those dogs were shorn seasonally, along with the sheep they tended.

— — —

QUICK QUIZ

On vice presidents:

1. In what cool structure does the vice president live?

2. As a very young man, who flunked out of Yale, worked laying power lines, and was arrested twice for drunken driving before dramatically turning his life around?

3. Which veep was indicted for murder while in office, and was tried for treason after leaving office?

4. Which veep won the Nobel Peace Prize while in office?

5. Who was Al Gore's college roommate?

— — —

ANSWERS:

1. The United States Naval Observatory.

2. Dick Cheney

3. Aaron Burr

4. Charles Dawes

5. Tommy Lee Jones

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.

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