A long, long time ago, upon not being assigned the jersey number I wanted, a wise man told me, “The number doesn’t make the man, the man makes the number.” It was consolation and inspiration. It’s advice I’ve since passed along to many players on many teams, whenever an argument broke out over who got to wear #10, or #13, or #9.
Well, that advice is a lie. This afternoon, before the first game of the new seven-a-side season, I was assigned #11—my favorite number, my soul-number—and I scored two goals. Even better, my knee felt good enough that I was able to play until running out of breath, rather than play until collapsing from pain.
I used to prefer #7, but in my sophomore year of high school, I suddenly became an 11 guy. It was a much better fit: there are eleven letters in my last name, I was born in the eleventh month, and… somebody else had already claimed number 7. Eleven and I were a perfect match; I wore it whenever possible—though I must confess I had a thing with the number 19 during my senior year.
Last season, I wore number 5 for the first few games, which was excusable because my team didn’t have a #11 jersey—in fact, we didn’t really have a #5 jersey either, they just took a red shirt and screened a 5 on it. That number was acceptable since “V” is the Roman numeral for five—get it? V? Meh.
I did okay, three goals in four games. Then my brother moved, and I started wearing his #9 jersey because it was an actual jersey and not just a red shirt. I don’t normally like wearing #9 or #10; those numbers are reserved for either superstars or pretentious blowhards, and I am no superstar.
Well, I should have stuck with #5, because the rest of the season was a disaster. No more goals. I hurt my knee pretty badly, and my shins were getting worse. We lost four of our last six games, each of the losses by a single goal, and one of them coming because the ref called a penalty on me for a handball in the box—even though I showed him the stinging red mark where the ball had clearly struck my stomach, not my hand.
Anyhow, two goals today: one for each numeral in Most Glorious Number 11. How poetic. I would say that scoring goals is a matter of timing, skill, power, and having the other team kick the ball right to you when you’re standing unguarded right in front of their goalie, but in this case, I know better. It’s because I was reunited with my belov’d number 11.
On Saturday morning, I read an article referring to a book called The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It piqued my interest enough that at lunch I bought the book. I got home, flipped it open, and was consumed by it. I spent—not wasted—my entire Saturday reading that book. It won a Pulitzer Prize and was recommended by Oprah, so I’m not the only one who thinks it’s any good. English teachers of the world, I don’t care about the occasional grammatical errors or the liberties with punctuation. Put The Road on your reading lists and teach it to your students.
I want very badly to write more about it but I won’t. Find this book and read it.