What’s in a number?
That’s a question I’ve been pondering lately. What is so important about a particular number, whether it be the number of revolutions the earth has taken around the sun during your lifetime, or the number you wear on the back of your jersey?
The number can come in to play when it’s time to hang up the cleats and move in to the next phase of your life. Is that at age 31, at the height of your career, as in the case of Barry Sanders, or into your 40s, showing no signs of slowing down, like Tom Brady having already banked five Super Bowl championships?
Is it like Floyd Mayweather after you’ve beaten everybody on the planet, including a world class MMA fighter, and you retire to a life of luxury and cash, or is it more like Muhammad Ali, who at 38 and well beyond his prime took on a much younger and formidable opponent Larry Holmes in what was billed “The Last Hurrah,” only to sit aged and defeated, not able to answer the bell for the 12th round?
I’ve always had a connection with the No. 11.
My brothers and I have been fighting over who was the first one to wear 11 on their jersey for years until Douglas broke out proof that it was him, but I’ve been wearing it the longest.
In high school and college, my personal statistics were always better when I was wearing number 11. Shouldn’t I be forgiven when I didn’t let the jersey get warm before asking for 11 when the leading scorer in our college’s history decided not to come back for his senior year?
One of my favorite football players was Jim Jensen who, you guessed it, wore 11 on his back for the Miami Dolphins. He also caught Dan Marino’s 200th touchdown pass, at a time when 200 touchdown passes meant something. Apollo 11 was the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon.
Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip each drove the No. 11 car when they won the NASCAR Winston Cup series. There were 11 managers to manage the Yankees between their World Series championships in 1978 and 1996. It was 11 years between national championships for Notre Dame football in 1966 (Parseghian), 1977 (Devine), and 1988 (Holtz).
I’m not alone in my attachment to my number.
Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis paid $40,000 to a teammate to “purchase” the right to wear No. 26. The New York Mets’ Joe McEwing was the recipient of a new baby nursery in his house in exchange for his No. 47 that he traded with Tom Glavine when he joined the team.
The Browns’ Kellen Winslow, Jr. paid an undisclosed amount of money to wear the same number — 80 — that his old man, Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, Sr., when he was a player for the Chargers.
Somehow the punters have all the luck.
When Donovan McNabb joined the Vikings for a brief stint, he bought his trademark No. 5 jersey from punter Chris Kluwe who was glad to make the exchange for a $5,000 check to Kluwe’s favorite charity, mention Kluwe’s band, Tripping Icarus, in five press conferences and buy him an ice cream cone.
Rumor is the ice cream cone has never been bought to seal the deal.
Giants punter Jeff Feagles wore No. 10 when Eli Manning arrived and shortly thereafter Manning was wearing 10, and Feagles was on an all-expense paid vacation in Florida and switched to No. 17 about the time Plaxico Burress joined the team and Feagles gave up his new favorite number for a new outdoor kitchen, compliments of Mr. Burress.
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My personal favorite was when Mitch Williams was picked up by the Phillies he wanted the No. 28 because of its connection to his wife so bad he was willing to pay the king’s ransom that teammate John Kruk asked of him — two whole cases of beer.
Kruk has been known to point out that since then, Williams and his wife divorced, Williams switched to 99 and the two cases of beer were long since gone.
Sometimes the number makes you too young as in when a high schooler is not allowed to play in the men’s indoor soccer league and yet other times the number makes you too old as in when a referee ages out of competition.
Sometimes a low number is good as in a hole-in-one and others when a high number is what you seek to get the maximum points allowed in a competition.
What’s in a number? It’s all in what it means to you. To me, I wasn’t the same player when I wasn’t wearing my beloved No. 11. To others, the price is a couple cases of beer.
When it comes to a number when you’re too old, I use the old adage, “Age is just a number, being young is an attitude.”