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Mother, And A Special Guest, Tell Us About Jersey Numbers

[This was recorded in the car on the way to the airport.]

Mom: There's a lot of different numbers, and different sports have them displayed differently. 

Interviewer: This is an essay? What's going on here? 

Mom: It's kind of like an essay. So, you just take excerpts, okay? Football has it displayed in more locations than other sports. 

Interviewer: What do you mean by that?

Mom: On the body. Front and back of jersey, and on the helmet, and I noticed that on Sunday, or on the shoulder-pads. It's mostly for TV purposes. So they can tell who it is easier. And then there are certain numbers that can only be played in certain positions to help the officials, to determine like rule infarctions. Let me see... 


Dad: Infarction? What's an infarction?

Mom: Infraction. An infarction's like an MI. [Note: This means myocardial infarction, or a heart attack.] No two players can wear the same number on the field at the same time. 

Interviewer: On the same team. But for opposing teams, it's alright?

Mom: Right. So even though there might be two players on the team with the same number, they can't be out at the same time. U.S. football doesn't have any zeros or double-zeroes, but they still have that in Canadian football. This is interesting, if you have a number between 50 and 79, you cannot catch or touch a forward pass if the team is in possession of the ball. So that was interesting, huh?

Interviewer: But unless you say that they're an eligible receiver, right?

Mom: Well, if you're going to correct me then I'm not going to read this to you. 

Dad: She knows that. She told me that. 

Interviewer: I'm not trying to correct you, I'm trying to explain it to the audience. 

Mom: Okay, you explain it. I told you you have free line of editing. And defensive linemen can wear numbers 90 to 99, because now there's a lot more defensive people and they were running out of numbers. They only used to go to 89, now they go to 99. It used to be like in 2010, they were wearing number 50 to 99. Now they're wearing 90 to 99. There's a whole grid. Quarterbacks for certain numbers, kickers, wide receivers. 

Interviewer: What's the grid?

Mom: Well I kind of had a little grid. Quarterback is one to nine and 10 to 19. So I guess it's one to 19. Wide receiver is also one to 19. The kicker is also one to 19, as is the punter. So that whole group can wear one to 19. And I told you there's no zero or double-zero, but there used to be a quarterback on the Detroit Lions who wore zero. George Plimpton. [Editor's Note: This was sort of a bookwriting ploy.] And Oakland Raiders had Jim Otto have a double-zero, way back in the day. Let's see...

[reads notes]

Mom: So the numbers are like based on the player's first position. Even if they change position after playing for a year or two, they will still have the same number. 

Interviewer: What do you mean? 

Mom: Well, okay. A quarterback is no longer a quarterback, and they go to another position. They can still have that number. 

Interviewer: I see.

Dad: I didn't know that. 

Mom: So players can wear the same number but they cannot play during the same down with the same number. There's about retiring numbers? The Bears have the most retiring numbers. 

Interviewer: So they're running out of numbers? 

Mom: Yeah. Other teams hardly have any numbers retired. 

Interviewer: How many do the Bears have? 

Mom: 14. Good question. I was ready for that, see. 

[holds up notes]

Mom: Joe Montana, he wore number 19. That was his high school number. And, what is this, it's the sum of his Notre Dame number and his 49er number. For Notre Dame he wore number three, and for the 49ers he wore 16. 

Interviewer: When he was on the Chiefs he was 19, too. 

Mom: Seattle Seahawks, they retired number 12 in 1984 in honor of The 12th Man. You know what The 12th Man is? 

Interviewer: It's like the crowd. 

Mom: Right! And then they'll have jerseys that have the number 12 on it that the crowd can have. That's kinda cool, right? And that's all I have. That's kind of like educational material. It's not inside gossip, it's just an education. Because I bet a lot of people wondered about numbers. Because I noticed that the punters, kickers, and quarterbacks always have low numbers, so that was what made me think, what's going on here? 

Dad: What if a quarterback became a defensive tackle? 

Mom: That'd be interesting. Supposedly they could, think they would? Wait. If a quarterback become a defensive tackle, they'd get beat up. Right? They'd get smashed to smithereens. 

Interviewer: What's your favorite number? 

Mom: Number four.

Interviewer: Why?

Mom: I think because Lindsey [One of mother's daughters.] always wore four.

Interviewer: Wait. Why Lindsey's number? 

Mom: What was your number? 

Interviewer: 16. Why is your favorite number after Lindsey?

Mom: No, my favorite number is 20. Four plus 16. 

Interviewer: Alright. 

Mom: But then you got 25 in there too. [For Meghan, another daughter.] So that would be 45, that's my favorite number. I'm done. That's two in one week. Okay, bye.

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