Stafford: Obi-wan, Yoda and the three miracles of Thanksgiving

Tom Stafford
Tom Stafford

Miracle 1:

Deadline was nearing, and what I’d hoped to accomplish with using Ohio Stadium to illustrate the state’s immense harvest was slipping away.

In a call I hesitated even to make, I must have sounded as desperate as Princess Leia saying “Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”

To his great credit, Ben Johnson didn’t bat an eye.

No, he said from the media relations department at Ohio State University. He wasn’t aware that anybody had calculated how many bushels of corn might fit into Ohio Stadium.

As important is what he didn’t say: “Will anyone take the nutcase on line one?”

He instead politely asked the nutcase to describe what I was looking for in an email and promised he would forward it to someone.

And, having successfully escaped humiliation during the call, that was the last I expected to hear.

But the next morning, an email arrived from Jeff Grabmeier, the university’s senior director of research news for media relations.

Ben, whom I was now thinking of as Mr. Kenobi, had forwarded him my email.

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Which brings us to Miracle 2:

Rather referring me to the School of Pharmacy for recommended medications, Grabmeier wrote “I don’t know that there is any extremely accurate way to figure it, since Ohio Stadium is irregularly shaped.”

That he was taking me seriously was like music to my ears from the Best Damn Band In The Land.

He described how he came up with what usually is called a “ballpark figure” for the volume of the Shoe.

“If you think of Ohio Stadium as a lake, you can use this calculator (available online), and say that Ohio Stadium is a lake that is 14.5 acres in size and 136 feet deep ….”

Here, I expected an invitation to jump into the lake.

Instead, he continued:” I ran that calculation and learned that Ohio Stadium would hold 642,534,788 gallons.”

At this point, I knew I had connected with Yoda himself – and not the baby one.

“A gallon to bushel calculator suggests that (the stadium’s capacity) would be 69,021,649.737 bushels, Grabmeier wrote. “If you use the length, height and width, you can (using another) calculator …. that suggests the volume of Ohio Stadium is 84,864,136 cubic feet. A cubic foot to bushel calculator suggests that would be 68,193,760.757 bushels. I like that they came up with very close estimates!”

Of course, I liked it, too – and used a figure halfway in between the two for my calculations

He signed off “Best, Jeff” and then wrote “Thoughts?”

“My thought, Jeff,” I wrote back, “is that you’re the man.”

Since I took it from there, any errors in the calculations of how many stadiums worth of corn, soybeans and wheat it would take to accommodate the 2020 Ohio harvest are mine.

But Obi-Wan and Yoda allowed the harvest to be described on a scale that approximates its immensity –for which we all can be thankful this Thanksgiving.

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But, as you’ll see, I got a little giddy with it.

  • The Omelet Bowl: Finding that five hefty size eggs fill a cup, and knowing there are 16 cups in a gallon gives us 80 eggs per gallon. I divided the estimated 9.5 billion eggs produced in Ohio annually by 80, coming up with 118 million gallons of scramble-ready eggs. That’s enough to create a 25 feet deep Sea of Scramble above the Jesse Owen Track. So, at this point, we’re talking Haz-Mat.
  • Turkey Bowl: Ranked ninth in the country, Ohio produces about 236 million pounds of turkey annually. At 15 pounds per turkey, that makes for 15.7 million ticket-holding turkeys, enough to sell out the Shoe’s 101,568 seats for nearly 15 games, at one turkey per seat. (If you repeat that last sentence to yourself a few times, the thoughts it expresses may start to make sense.)
  • Hogs: Here, things start to go off the rails. Assuming that an army of ushers with crowbars could wedge your average 285-pound hog into a single seat, the average number of hogs harvested in a year would contribute to 38 consecutive sellouts. That’s before slaughter. But, you really wouldn’t want to wait for afterwards, would you?
  • Note to University: The string of hog sellouts likely will usher in a period of high turnover among both ushers and stadium custodial staff, along with reports of the loss of smell and taste in both the undergraduate and graduate communities. Please inform campus security and student health services.
  • Chickens: With the stadium in total ruins after the cumulative wear-and-tear of scrambled eggs, turkeys and hogs, figuring three per seat, the annual production of Ohio broilers would sell out 219 games, though with a risk of turf damage from the free-rangers.

And so, now – at last -- we arrive at Miracle 3:

It’s the miracle that you are still reading this.

And since you are – after raining muchos kudos to Obi-Wan, Yoda and all the folks in media relations at OSU – allow me to say:

Happy Thanksgiving to all -- and to all a good night.

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