When Numbers Confound

Commentary  by Dr. Don Newbury
Commentary
by Dr. Don Newbury

The world of mathematics is as mystifying to me as a newly-discovered foreign language, or the dots, dashes and/or buzzes from outer space. I can handle dollars represented by three figures, but my understanding of numbers accompanied by a comma and three digits is limited.
You can safely assume, then, that figures with three commas–with a like number of 000’s tacked on–short-circuit all that is within me. Thus, I seek forgiveness for tiny distant voices saying, “All circuits are busy at this time—please try again later”—when I try to wrap my mind around a wisp of understanding concerning the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao “fight of the century” financial fall-out.
Vignettes that span time and sports—with baseball in the mix—lie ahead in this piece. There’s a third account of a good deed by an ordinary “Joe” named Chuck Bonds. Hopefully, it will be the one worth remembering for us “ordinaries” who mostly plod along, but still want to get as much right as possible, no matter how long it takes….
First things first: In third grade, here’s what I heard Mrs. Byrd ask: “Don, what’s ‘toot’em’ two, what’s ‘toot-em’ three, what’s ‘toot-em’ four?” I interrupted, hoping she’d stop right there. “I don’t even know what ‘toot-em’ is.”
This helps set the stage for the so-called “fight of the century,” even if it fell several levels short of that. Spun by social media, anti-social media and general media, fans fell in line to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars, including some $300,000,000 in pay-per-view alone. It’s clear to me that thousands of fans are bamboozled when they shell out significant cash just to watch the weigh-in.
Mayweather’s total take for winning is said to be in excess of $200,000,000. And Pacquiao—the uh, “loser”—will net more than $100,000,000 when all the ciphering is done….
Roll the calendar back 85 years–when baseball was truly the “national pastime.” Fans–including President Herbert Hoover–depended on Babe Ruth and associates to take their minds off the Great Depression. Hoover attended games regularly, despite fans booing him roundly in disdain for the nation’s plight.
It was 1930, and for his season’s work, Ruth was paid $80,000. Some critics “gruffed” that he made more than the President, whose salary was $75,000.
Ruth, famous for numerous quotes—including ‘I heard the cheers when they roared and the jeers when they echoed’—defended his salary thusly: “I had a better year than the President.”…
Back to the present–with numbers even I can understand. I wrote in this space recently about Norm Hitzges, the Metroplex’s radio sports guru who was on the faculty at Sul Ross State University during the 1967-68 school year.
One of his students, Chuck Bonds, borrowed $125 from Hitzges, shortly before entering military service. The now longtime New Mexico resident attempted to repay the debt, but Hitzges—starting his new career in Dallas–no longer had the SRSU address. Bonds, unaware of Hitzges’ move, didn’t know how to reach him. Recently, he chanced to see the Hitzges’ column online. Now, their friendship is renewed and contact details re-established. Predictably, Bonds mailed a check in the amount of $400 (covering the principal and a good percentage of interest). The 48-year-old debt was off his mind.
Also predictably, Hitzges endorsed the check to Dallas’ Austin Street Center. It will benefit his favorite charity that benefits the hungry and homeless. One might also guess that Hitzges will check on the grade he gave Bonds back in ’68, followed by contact with the SRSU registrar to see if it’s permissible to elevate it by a letter grade…..
Hitgzes fans–and they are legion–are amazed at his knowledge of sports in general and are in awe of his memorable, relaxed interviews with sports personalities.
They are likewise heartened by his 15-year commitment to the Austin Street Shelter. It is the beneficiary of more than $2.5 million raised by his radio “Norm-a-thons,” 18-hour stretches each December 26. Last year, more than $400,000 was raised.
Norm has taken Jesus’ “I was hungry and you fed me…I was a stranger and you took me in” to heart. This admonition—along with dollars in three digits—I understand….

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: http://www.speakerdoc.com. Archived: venturegalleries.com.

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