course I sucked as a high school athlete -- I had to wear
By Jon Cox
September 25, 2006 | I miss the old high school days
when the teacher would leave the classroom for a few
minutes, then one of the jocks would go sign their name
on the chalkboard. Of course, it always had to be accompanied
by their number.
Dave Stevens, No. 23. Like their number somehow identified
I remember picking out jerseys for football and basketball
back in those days. The good players always had first
dibs, and the rest of us got stuck with the leftovers.
Every year, I ended up with lame, prime numbers: 53,
11, and so on.
Dave Stevens always chose first. He was younger than
a lot of us, but for some reason, he felt entitled to
the special treatment.
As always, he chose No. 23. With the likes of Michael
Jordan, David Beckham and Ryne Sandberg all wearing
that number at one time or another, who wouldn't choose
it first? Even Richard Nixon, when he played college
football, wore the magical 2-3.
Every kid knows that each parent gives 23 chromosomes
to their children. There are 23 vertebrae in the human
body. And in the movie, "Babe," the pig is the 23rd
contestant in the sheepdog challenge. It's such a popular
number. Jim Carrey is even scheduled to star in a new
movie titled, "The Number 23," set to be released sometime
And what about 53?
Umm . . .
On the periodic table, the element iodine has the
atomic number 53. Give iodine its credit though. Without
it in water, tadpoles can never turn into frogs. They
just grow into giant tadpoles that can beat the crap
out of the other puny tadpoles.
The 53rd bill presented in Congress this year allowed
the Department of the Interior to lease tar sand. Exciting
Is it any wonder I sucked in high school athletics?
I always tried talking the coach into letting me change
my number to a fraction or decimal or something else
really original. But he never liked the idea.
"Into the game, number 5/3rds, Jon Cox." It would
be so easy. I could keep the same uniform, just add
a little line of masking tape between the two numbers
and I'd be set. Coach never bought it though. Chicken.
I guess he probably figured that 5/3rds would be too
tough for the ref to signal if I ever got into foul
trouble during a basketball game. So then, I offered
to be the number pi. That way if I ever
picked up a foul, instead of holding up fingers, the
ref could just pretend he was eating a big pie.
He said no.
Such is life. Of course, if I was Dave Stevens and
I was really good, I could have been pi, mu, infinity
or anything else I wanted.
But I'm not Dave Stevens. Of course, it's the kids
like him that always end up loving high school so much
that they can never leave it. They either stay in town
and work at the local hog farm or go to college and
get a degree, just so they can go back to their same
hometown and coach their same high school team.
It's kind of a vicious cycle. Creative, non-athletic
kids never get a chance.
Of course there are always those get-even moments
when the nerds stick it to the jocks. I remember a time
like that in my high school days. During history class,
the All-American Dave Stevens stood up to turn up the
volume on the big screen TV. Maybe he was going to write
his name and number on the chalkboard while he was up,
I don't know. It wouldn't be the first time.
While he was standing, the chubby Future Farmers of
America president said from the back of the room, "Hey
Dave, sit down. We can't see past your ego."
Dave told him to shut up, but everybody just laughed.
He turned up the volume, but left the chalkboard alone.
We all respected the FFA and its president a little
more after that day. Until he started branding everybody.
That really hurt.