HNC Home Page
News Business Arts & Life Sports Opinion Calendar Archive About Us
PUT AWAY YOUR TOYS: Sunday brought perfect weather for hot-air ballooning over the Old Mendon Highway -- but when it's over, you still have to pack up. / Photo by Nancy Williams

Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

Of course I sucked as a high school athlete -- I had to wear No. 53

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 them.

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 in 2007.

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 huh?

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. Victory.

We all respected the FFA and its president a little more after that day. Until he started branding everybody. That really hurt.


Copyright 1997-2006 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
Best viewed 800 x 600.