Friday, July 13, 2012


      Today seemed like such a good day.  I got a good night's sleep, the coffee was hot and effective; I greeted the day with a positive vibe and vice versa.  Then I realized what day it was and was overjoyed.  It's Friday!  And then the date occurred to me, the 13th, and an uncontrollable feeling of dread overwhelmed me.  Now, I am not the overly superstitious type.  I have no issue with black cats or mirrors or ladders per se.  But will I not walk under a ladder and I will sidestep a black cat and I have rarely power slammed a mirror against a know, just in case.  I also don't necessarily believe in lucky or unlucky numbers either.  The belief is universally held in the western world that the number 13 is unlucky.  No one can say specifically why, it just is.  Now, in Chinese culture, the number 4 is thought of as very unlucky and this at least has a reason: because it is a near homophone to the word death.  With all the jokes about how 7-8-9, this is somewhat understandable.  But why does 13 get a bad rap and not, say, 6 or 29?  I had a rotten year at the age of 29, so I have a lot more reason to hate that number than innocent old number 13.  OK, I'm rambling here, the point is, superstitions are silly yet we react to them anyway, usually irrationally. 

All that said, and as usual it was a mouthful by me, I would never ever wear the number 13 on a sports field.  Why temp fate?  Of course, correlation does not imply causation, but facts are facts.  Let's take a look.

Wilt Chamberlain:
He's one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  He was literally unstoppable - when he wanted to be.  He put up numbers that are hard to fathom 50 years after the fact (50 points a game for a season, 55 rebounds in a game, etc).  And yet, his career is looked at as something of a failure.  He had all this talent and was faster and stronger and taller than everyone else, so why didn't he win championships every year?  Sure, he won two, but Bill Russell, a direct contemporary, won 11, including 8 in a row and several directly at the expense of Wilt.  Bill Russell had the drive and the heart, they say.  Wilt just didn't have that killer instinct.  Or maybe, it was the number he wore.

Dan Marino:
He's sort of the Wilt Chamberlain of football.  He set all the records.  He had all the skills.  His release was quicker than anyone had ever seen.  Yet he only made one Super Bowl in his career and lost it to Joe Montana, who was not nearly as physically gifted as Dan. Some blamed the defense, some blamed the running game.  I blame the number on his back.

Kurt Warner sort of breaks the pattern here, but not really:
Kurt has one of the best feel good stories of all time.  He went from stocking groceries to winning the Super Bowl in less than a year.  He powered one of the greatest offenses of all time.  Cinderella don't have shit on Kurt Warner.  But then...then he lost to the Patriots.  Then his teams floundered.  Then he found himself out of a job.  Then he found himself behind Eli Manning.  Then, worse, he found himself behind Matt Leinart(!).  He eventually regained a starting job and then somehow led the endlessly unlucky Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl with a 9-7 record and had them winning that Super Bowl in the final few minutes.  But a few Big Ben passes later, the game was lost.  No one would ever say Roethelisburger is a lucky man (most would say he is a scumbag), so maybe it's the number - again.

Mats Sundin:
It was hard trying to even remember a hockey player that wore the number 13.  Then, thanks to google, they gave me a great example.  Sundin was a great player, and from all accounts, a great teammate.  But he had the misfortune of playing for one of the more snakebit teams of the last 40+ years, the Toronto Maple Leafs.  If you were Toronto, would you let your best player wear the number 13?

Billy Wagner:
Billy Wagner threw hard.  Real hard.  He also had one of the greatest sliders you ever saw.  He was also really good at blowing big saves.  Of all the "great" closers, I am hard pressed to find a better closer who blew more big leads in big spots than Wagner did.  With four different teams, he never did win a championship.  I think you might be on to my reasoning.

Baseball is all about numbers.  And part of that tradition is great players should wear great numbers.  Hank Aaron wore #44 (maybe not great if you're Chinese).  Mickey Mantle wore #7.  Frank Robinson wore #20.  These are dynamic numbers rich in history.
So when A-Rod came to the Yankees, why on earth did he pick #13?  Why?  This boggles my mind.  I know #3 was not available (duh), nor #23.  But #12 was, #30 was, #33 was.  If he liked the #3 so much, those numbers make sense.  Why go with #13?  As much as I despise Barry Bonds (#25 - also a good number), I hope Alex Rodriguez doesn't break the all time home run record just because the notion of someone wearing the #13 having such a hallowed record seems wrong.  But, that seems a bit moot since his body is breaking down at an alarming rate.  So, in the end, it appears the number will have/is having its way with poor A-Rod after all. 

Not pictured: Omar Vizquel (zero championships), Edgardo Alfonso (zero championships), John Valentin (zero championships), Lance Parrish (one championship), Don Maynard (one championship), Glenn Robinson (zero championships), Steve Nash (zero championships), and of course, Ralph Branca (gave up the Shot Heard 'round the World).

I am now going to go crawl back under the covers until tomorrow morning.  Better safe than sorry.

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