Where would sports be without statistics? No one would know who the playoff contenders were if somebody didn’t keep track of the wins and losses. Batting titles, Most Valuable Player awards, scoring championships . . . all based on stats.
So it was intriguing the other day to read a story online about the most significant numbers in sports. The author determined that ‘18’ was today’s most significant number. (We’ll get to the ‘why’ a little further down.)
If you’re a baseball fan, you know the magic surrounding 56. That’s the consecutive game hitting streak accomplished in 1941 by Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees. Pete Rose got to 44 in the 1980s, but no one has come closer. It’s regarded as one of sports’ most unbreakable records (other than, in some quarters, 18).
If you’re a hockey fan, 50 used to be the magic number. A 50-goal season was Hall-of-Fame territory, but now the record is 92 in a season (Wayne Gretzky, naturally). Do you recognize 212? That’s Gretzky’s one-season point total and if DiMaggio’s 56 is unattainable, then The Great One’s 212 has to be equally insurmountable.
Basketball has Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. Football? The 2,104-yard rushing season of Eric Dickerson.
But the number of most significance in 2012 is 18 — the number of major golf championships won by the all-time leader, Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods — love him or hate him — is at 14 and will be gunning for No. 15 this week at the British Open in England.
At the age of 36, Woods has more money than he’ll ever need. He has 74 tournament titles, only eight short of the all-time record of 82 held by Sam Snead, so it’s almost a given he’ll eclipse that one. The 18 majors, though? To him, it’s a sacred number and the golf community is divided on whether Woods will get there.
Since winning three PGA tourneys this year (Bay Hill, the Memorial, and the AT&T), Woods’s fans are convinced Tiger is all the way back from his post-scandal slump and health woes. But he blew a chance to win June’s U.S. Open after leading at the halfway mark and has two more ‘major’ chances this year (England this week and the PGA in August) to get closer to Nicklaus’s magic 18.
If Tiger gets close in the next couple of years, the whole world will be inundated with the importance of ‘18.’ It’s the perfect number for a golf record, right?
• CBS’s David Letterman, on the 28-mile swim competition around Manhattan Island: “The winner gets a trophy and hepatitis.”
• Headline at TheOnion.com: “Mike Holmgren finally admits to friends that he’s working for Cleveland Browns.”
• Ex-Sonics GM Bob Whitsitt, to the Kitsap Sun, on life as a 50-something: “We’re on the back nine. We just don’t know what hole we’re on.”
• Stu Hackel of si.com, after Chris Johnson of Canadian Press tweeted ‘Columbus signs goalie Curtis McElhinney to a two-way deal’: “The Blue Jackets are cornering the market on non-elite goalies.”
• Steve Rushin of si.com on Twitter: “Dilemma. Yankees vs. Red Sox tonight, but you only have one 5-hour energy drink. Do you watch first six innings or last six?”
• R.J. Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick agreed to a 10-year, $58 million contract extension. This sounds like a get Quick rich scheme.”
• Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle, on recently traded Carlos Lee, now of the Miami Marlins: “It had gotten to the point that when a game announcer mentioned a slow roller, viewers didn’t know if he was referring to the ball or Lee. Truthfully, Lee really isn’t fat. He’s just big-boned. Big, heavy, slow-moving bones. And despite the general sentiment, he is in some sort of shape. Round.”
• Comedy writer Alan Ray, on why Magic centre Dwight Howard is a five-tool player: “He can not only score, pass, and rebound, but also whine and complain.”
• Headline at SportsPickle.com: “Anthony Davis encourages young kids to work hard and grow seven inches as a high-school senior.”
• Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “This one is now making the rounds on Twitter: LeBron to Kobe: “Why didn’t you answer my call?” Kobe: “I only heard one ring.”
• Bianchi again: “Why are the Washington Nationals so concerned about Stephen Strasburg’s pitch count? They must be saving his arm for when he eventually signs with the Yankees.”
• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Dolphins have started a Fin Club in which fans can earn ‘loyalty points’ by attending games and spending money. I am starting a Win Club in which the Dolphins can earn fan loyalty by winning games.”
• Cote again: “Boston traded fan favourite Kevin Youkilis to Chicago. I’ve never seen so much attention paid to a man changing sox.”