This year I — like everyone else in the world who follows the traditional Roman calendar — was given an extra day.
I was given 24 hours to utilize however I wanted. I had 1,440 minutes to make the world a little bit better place in which to live — if but for one day. There were 86,400 seconds there for the taking — to help the less fortunate, to work toward world peace or to clean up the environment.
So how did I spend my Leap Day earlier this week, you ask? Well, much of it was spent figuring out the math you see in the preceding paragraph. The time I had left over I spent sleeping, mooching dinner off my mom and watching wrestling on TV — in other words, it wasn’t particularly different from how I likely will spend the regular 365 days this year — only with more math involved.
Truth be told, I don’t have any particularly fond memories of accomplishing anything special on any of the 11 Leap Days I’ve been around for. Since the day always falls on Feb. 29 — during one of the busiest times of year for a sportswriter — much of my adult life likely has been spent covering either high school basketball or wrestling tournaments on Leap Day.
While my life hasn’t been particularly fascinating on Leap Day, however, that doesn’t mean the rest of the world has been devoid of interesting and impressive accomplishments.
For instance, did you know that on Feb. 29, 1940, actress Hattie McDowell became the first Africa-American to win Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards for her role in “Gone With the Wind?” And isn’t it kind of sad that 19 Leap Days later, African-Americans (along with other minorities) are still fighting many of the same struggles in Hollywood?
On Feb. 29, 1960, Bil Keane debuted his long-running newspaper comic strip, “Family Circus” (then known as “The Family Circle”). I have never been a fan. I guess I was always more of a “Calvin and Hobbes” sort of guy.
On that very same day, Hugh Hefner opened the first Playboy Club in Chicago. While I don’t read “Family Circus,” I do read Playboy from time to time. For the articles only, of course.
On Leap Day in 1972, Hank Aaron became the highest-paid player in baseball when he signed a contract worth $200,000 per year. Under his current contract, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez will make $169,753.09 per game. Too bad all of that money can’t buy him a fraction of Aaron’s class and dignity.
I imagine many people are pretty busy on Leap Day — one mother in Norway certainly was in the 1960s. On Feb. 29, 1960, Heidi Henriksen was born. Four years later, on Leap Day, her brother Olav was born. Four years after that — once again, on Leap Day — their brother Leif-Martin was born. Earlier this century, a family in Utah matched the Henriksens, with three baby siblings born on three-consecutive Leap Days.
Obviously their mothers got Leap Day confused with Labor Day.
Some Leap Day history goes back pretty far — and isn’t always pretty.
On Feb. 29, 1692, the first warrants were issued in the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” was one of the best books I had to read in high school … and also a biting social commentary on McCarthyism. Funny how history has a tendency to repeat itself. I’m not so sure it’s not happening again as we speak.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your Leap Day this year … and even if you didn’t, you at least have for years to plan your next one.
I, for one, look forward to sleeping in and mooching dinner off my mom.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong