Arguing over facts

The world record for most tricks performed by a pig within one minute is 13.

Highest jump on a pogo stick? That’d be 11.15 feet.

Most pinky pull-ups in a row without stopping: 36.

I know all these facts—well, to the extent that anybody knows anything, I suppose—because the nice folks at Guinness have recorded them in a book.

Bear with me, however, this isn’t quite true, because I haven’t actually looked at the Guinness Book of World Records book in many years.

In fact, I know these facts because I googled “strangest world records,” and they’re among the results, because they had previously been published in the book.

The Guinness record folks are the same folks who brew Guinness beer. In 1964, Sir Hugh Beaver, director of the brewery, came up with the idea of a book comprised of strange facts that would settle pub arguments.

As my wife said when I told her this fact last night, “Oh, that makes perfect sense.”

Now, as it happens, one of my big pet peeves these days is “arguing over facts.” There is no point to it, not when we all walk around with devices smaller than a deck of cards that can connect you, more or less, to an archive of almost all human knowledge.

There’s no reason to debate how high someone can jump on a pogo stick, or what player was named to the most MLB All-Star Games but never won the World Series, or whether it’s really true that the color “blue” does not appear in the Bible.

It’s all right there in your pocket.

I am a card-carrying member of Generation X, and for better or worse one thing my generation can lay claim to is that we’re the last generation to have experienced a pre-digital childhood, but that we also dove nose-first into all things Internet during young adulthood, and never looked back.

Thus, I know firsthand what it’s like to be a 20-year-old arguing for an hour about whether the Islanders, Oilers, or Canadiens won more Stanley Cups in a single decade.

But, I also know what it’s like to—well, there are a million examples, but here’s a colorful one—to meet retired NBA player Gheorghe Muresan, who stands 7 feet 7 inches tall, and within 30 seconds afterward be on my phone, googling whether he’s actually the tallest player ever, only to have him turn back and look over my shoulder (easy enough given the height difference) and catch me doing it.

(Tied with Manute Bol, in case you were wondering.)

It’s a Friday, and I like the comment threads we’ve been doing, so here’s a fun one: What’s the best pre-Internet, pre-smartphone, pre-Google era argument you remember having that could have easily been solved if you’d only been having it now, in the post-Internet, post-smartphone, post-Google era?

Let us know in the comments.

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Thanks for reading, as always. Photo: John Stephen Dwyer, on Flickr. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.