November 18, 2008
Numerologists and those who study symbolism in dreams can probably offer more profound reasons than I can for why some numbers are considered lucky, like seven, and why others are typically associated with bad luck, like thirteen, so I won’t attempt to go there.
But regardless of why it might be associated with a lack of luck, the number 99 hasn’t fared well in pop culture.
Most recently, Jay Z rapped about having ninety-nine problems but a five-letter-word-starting-with-“B”- and-rhyming-with-“witch” ain’t one.
Prior to that, there was Nena’s early 1980s one-hit wonder “99 Luftballoons,” which Wikipedia informs me was incorrectly translated to English at “99 Red Balloons” when it actually should have just been “99 Balloons,” not that the addition of “red” really makes any difference for purposes of this analysis. What does make a difference is Wikipedia’s further assertion that “both the English and German versions of the song tell a story of ninety-nine balloons floating into the air, triggering an apocalyptic overreaction by military forces.” Not good times, no matter how you title it.
And of course, before Nena, who I imagine is now probably slinging beer and schnitzel in some big hall filled with long communal tables somewhere outside Hamburg (lederhosen optional), there was “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” a song gleefully chanted by backwards-counting grade schoolers everywhere but actually describing a germophobe’s worst nightmare. Why can’t we just take a beer or three apiece?
Speaking of incongruous tunes, a friend of mine recently sent me a link to Marvin Gaye singing an a capella version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87FjkqtK67o). It was the first time in years that I thought about how sad and tragic this song really is – the lyrics are all about how this guy learned through word of mouth that his girlfriend is cheating on him and he’s making a plaintive cry to ask for her back. Yet somehow the song has become a staple of weddings everywhere – grandmas in rolled up stockings and drunk bridesmaids alike dancing to it happily. Hell, we’ve even witnessed a popular advertising campaign built around this sound, with claymation raisins dancing in lockstep to its words. Really makes you want to eat dried fruit, doesn’t it?
As I stated above, I haven’t put much thought into the idea of why the number 99 is so significant, except for the fact that it rolls off the tongue easily (thus its use in so many songs) and the other reason must have something to do with the fact that it’s one short of the magic round number one hundred. So if just shy of one hundred is bad, is the converse true? Does exceeding the century mark, regardless of how small the margin, make for a good omen?
But except for Dalmatians and lists in magazines for domesticated ladies’ magazines (“101 things you can cook in a crock pot”), 101 doesn’t seem to be as significant in popular culture as 99. But one good example of its positive use was by Ted Leonsis, who made about two truckloads of dollars working at AOL in the 1990s. After a near-death experience a decade earlier, Leonsis, who is now the majority owner of the Washington Capitals, developed a list of 101 things he wanted to do with his (http://www.tedstake.com/?p=8).
Some of Ted’s 101 (now that I know his innermost thoughts, I feel comfortable calling him Ted) are possible for anyone with a pulse and some other assorted body parts (“Fall in love and get married”; “Have a healthy son”; “Have a healthy daughter”) while others (“Create world’s largest media company” – that one already has a check by it) are more challenging, and others (“Give away one hundred million dollars in lifetime”) are pretty darned ambitious.
By my count (there’s number one for my list – buy a calculator or an abacus), Ted has hit 75 of his marks, which means that he might want to preliminarily create #102 – “Start another list” – after all, he’s only 51 years old.
I recently interviewed pro angler Marty Stone both before and after he got to ride in a F-15E Strike Eagle Fighter Jet, thus fulfilling one of his dreams. He had previously told BASS that he had three goals in life – to drive a NASCAR stock car, train with the U.S. Army Special Forces and ride in a fighter plane. Now he’s done the first and third items on that list.
It made me think about what I’d put on my own personal bucket list. I think I’m going to spend some time this winter coming up with two related lists, one general and one for fishing and writing-related achievements. Some will be easy to achieve – fish Erie, fish Clear Lake, fish Amistad, fish Falcon (again), catch a fish on a foot-long swimbait. Others will be slightly more challenging – eventually own my own pond managed for trophy bass, like Ray Scott’s lakes.
But the one that intrigues me most is that someday I want to have a lure, or more likely a color pattern, named after me. Not sure if that’ll take up one or two spaces on my list. I don’t know what that color will be. KVD has pretty much already claimed Sexy Shad. And when it comes to plastics, to be honest the vast majority of my fishing is with green pumpkin, black/blue and junebug. But there’s time to work on it. And you can be damned sure that my list is going to have more than 99 items on it. I may have a lot of catching up to do, but I’m 13 years younger than Leonsis. I’m 5 years younger than Marty, too.
I’ll continue to offer up information in this space as the list develops. In the meantime, if you have ideas, or preferably if you can help me achieve my goals, don’t hesitate to write into the home office.