J is for Jersey Numbers

JI don’t have just one lucky number. I have five: 48…64…55…57…16.

I can’t see the number 48 without thinking of my son. That was the number he wore on his back for seven football seasons. He first claimed that number at age seven when he started playing tackle football.

It was a magical season. Prior to that year, the team had the dubious honor of being labeled the worst team in the league—the team all the other teams figured as an automatic win. That season, however, saw a change in coaching staff which took the team to an undefeated season and a city championship.

Jersey 48

The cutest #48 ever.

He fell in love with football while wearing the number 48, and fought to keep it throughout his youth football career. To this day, I feel a jolt of excitement when I see 48 on a football player. It is quickly followed by a twinge of irritation because I know in my heart no other player is worthy of wearing that number.

I feel the same with 64—his jersey number in high school. I have my own team hoodie with the number displayed across its back. I wore it to every game. It’s been six years since he wore that number, but I still have the hoodie hanging in my closet. It brings a smile every time I see it.

Jersey 64

“Six and four is 10!”

Sixty-four was also the number that proved to me my youngest was a genius. She was three-years-old at the time, and while prepping her to find her brother on the field, I told her to look for number 64. “Sixty-four,” I explained simply, “is the numbers six and four put together.”

At the game, I quizzed her. “What’s six and four, honey?”

She waved her little pom-poms in the air and gave her biggest cheerleader yell… “TEN!” (See, she’s a genius!)

Next came 57, his jersey number for his first year of college football with the Army Black Knights. It was later changed to 55, then back to 57 and back to 55 again. These are good strong numbers, and I like to think they were fighting for the privilege of riding his shoulder pads.

The number 16 was added to the list a few weeks ago when the Young One played in her first competitive soccer tournament.  We had ordered her uniforms–more like a soccer wardrobe complete with two sets of game uniforms, training gear, warm ups and bag to carry it all–weeks before the tournament, but two days before the first game, we still didn’t have them. The backup plan was to borrow a jersey from another girl who was going to skip the tournament

As the newest girl on the team, the Young One had a strong desire to fit in with her teammates. Without a uniform and her very own number, though, that task (in her eight-year-old mind anyway) was utterly hopeless.

I checked my email every hour on the hour for a notification that the uniforms were ready. Game day arrived…still no uniform.  Ours was a late afternoon game, so we decided to make one last desperate run by the soccer store just in case they forgot to send me an email. We gave our name at the counter and waited…and waited…and waited.

Finally, the saleswoman came out of the storeroom, arms loaded with a plastic wrapped bundle. “Here you go,” she said. “We were just waiting on a pair of shorts to come in, but you can take what we have now.”

Jersey 16

The Big Jersey Number Reveal!

The Young One squealed and looked desperately through the plastic, but the number she was so desperate to see was buried under layers of cotton and Nike logos. I could tell she wanted to tear the package open right there in the store. Being the cool momma I am, I made her wait until we got home.

When we finally made it through the door, she tore off the plastic to reveal her personal magic number…16!

“I’m number 16! I’m number 16!” she chanted as she jumped up and down.

I have to agree with her enthusiasm.  Number 16 is pretty awesome. How could it not be? She’s going to wear it on her back for years, and she’s going to make it just as great as her brother made every number he wore. 

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