For most of us, sports is a game, but one that must be taken very, very seriously. It comforts us to know that there is a higher power, a sports god if you will, that is protecting the very sacred laws of sports. When these sports gods are on your side, you’ll do whatever you can to keep them happy. This can range from the somewhat normal (Wade Boggs eating chicken on every game day), to the obsessive (Jason Terry sleeping in the shorts of his opponents the night before every game), to the disgusting (Serena Williams not changing socks throughout an entire tournament). It’s when the sports gods are against you that things start to get weird. Jason Giambi used to wear a gold thong to get out of slumps. Seriously!? What’s worse is that when it worked, his teammates started to do it too! (hopefully using different thongs)
To say that the world of sports is superstitious is kind of like saying Bill Gates is just wealthy. On the contrary, Bill Gates is the richest man in the world, and there is nothing more superstitious than the world of sports (for both the athletes and the fans). It’s the reason we throw back the first catch of the day when fishing, sit in the exact same chair throughout an entire game, turn our hats inside-out when we need to rally in a few runs, or even hold hands for a field goal with three seconds left. There is no logic, reason, or even a shred of common sense that goes into any of it, and that’s the way we like it. There are too many things in this world that can be figured out with math and science; and with analytics becoming more and more important, sports seems to be next in line. But for now, we have good ol’ illogical superstition.
Now back to that pesky 118 number: What is it, and why is it important? Well my friends, it’s the numbers of ‘The Triplets’ added up, 8+22+88=118 (Troy Aikman + Emmitt Smith + Michael Irving). Since Irvin’s career-ending injury in 1999, the Cowboys have not had a Big 3 that added up to 118… until now. With Zeke wearing number 21, add that to Dez (88) and Romo (9), and what do you get? 118! That’s right all you analytics nerds out there talking about DVOA‘s and trying to figure out if total QBR or passer rating is a better determination of how well a quarterback plays – all you really need are jersey numbers to predict if the Cowboys will win their 6th Super Bowl this year! It’s so simple, and it was right in front of us this whole time! But wait, there’s more: When looking back to the first Cowboys Super Bowl team (1971), we still find the elusive 118 total. Adding up all of the position players: Roger Staubach (12), Duane Thomas (33), Walt Garrison (32), Lance Alworth (19), and Bob Hayes (22), you get the beautiful 118. The 1977 Cowboys may be the only Super Bowl winners without a 118 combination (I’m still investigating this with my trusty calculator), but apparently a 118 combo isn’t needed when the opposing QB throws 4 interceptions in the first half (thank you Craig Morton).
When heading into a new season, everyone is looking for the reason why this year is going to be THE year for their team. Some of those reasons have to do with who is healthy at the start of the season that wasn’t fully healthy the year before (such as Romo, Dez, and Scandrick who play 3 of the 5 most important positions in the NFL). Another reason is what your team did the last time they were healthy (Such as touting a 12-4 record, and one bad call/rule away from playing in the NFC championship). Others have to do with the strength of the division your team is in (like the fact that no other team from the NFC East is in the top 15 of the post-draft power rankings). And finally, you have the schedule strength (or lack thereof) to look forward to (27th strength of schedule for the 2016 season). Facts, stats, and numbers are always good to have on your side in sports, but it’s always easier to sleep at night when the sports god’s are on your side. With the re-emergence of 118 in 2016, I’d say the gods may just be smiling down on us. 118 in 2016! (Hey, it’s better than Trump or Hillary)!
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