The Number 23

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Bobby Nystrom was what led to 23 becoming columnist Paul DiSclafani’s favorite number

My old college buddy Steve called to congratulate me on having my first book published, Burning Through the West Coast. During our conversation, he asked if I had an updated email address.
“No,” I told him, “I’m still using pdisco23@aol.com.”

It was my first email address from back in 1989, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. When I created the email address, I wanted to use my first initial (P) and my nickname (Disco), but “pdisco” was already taken on AOL. So, I added the number 23, and the rest is history.
“Wow,” he replied. “The number ‘23’ is evil.”
“Evil?” I asked. “I thought ‘666’ was the sign of the Devil.”
“No,” he said, “That’s the Mark of the Beast. The number 23 is pure evil. You should look it up.”
So, I did.

According to the movie The Number 23, it is an evil number. However, I didn’t uncover anything inherently evil about the number itself.
Growing up on Long Island, your favorite numbers depended on whom your sports heroes were. Tom Seaver (41), Mickey Mantle (7) and Joe Namath (12) were the guys you idolized when I was a kid. Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose your Little League number. The uniforms are numbered 1-15, based on how big (or small) a jersey you need. The little guys always got ‘1’ while the big kids that were the catchers got double digits.

The same held true with high school sports uniforms. The number on your back was based on your size and what was leftover from last year. You undoubtedly didn’t get the number of your choice with your name on the back. You couldn’t just buy any jersey from any team with any name and number on it.

It wasn’t until the Islanders won the Stanley Cup in 1980 that I adopted ‘23’ as my number of choice, thanks to Bobby Nystrom. Although my birthday falls on the 24th of February, I just liked the number 23. One year, for my mother’s birthday, I bought her The Book of Birthdays. With the entire family crowded around the dining room table, we read about everyone’s specific birthday. There were detailed descriptions about personalities, along with likes and dislikes. To be honest, the book was pretty darn accurate.
Except for February 24.

It was so wrong in every category with no similarities to me at all. Puzzled, I turned back a page and read about February 23. Sure enough, it was right on the nose.
My research turned up many interesting and bizarre facts about the number 23. There are thousands of websites dedicated to people fascinated by the number 23, and even a Facebook page called “23rdians.”

If you saw the movie A Beautiful Mind, you know it’s the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Junior story. He was obsessed with the number 23 (it was his favorite prime number) and believed it had a unique role in human relations. After all, humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes (one set from each parent) and all the blood in your body circulates­­­—you guessed it—every 23 seconds. Nash, who ironically died in a car crash on the 23rd of May, published precisely 23 scientific articles in his lifetime.

Did you know that Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times and according to The Bible, Adam and Eve had 23 daughters? Being the only people on the planet, what else could they do in their spare time?
But is 23 evil? I’m not entirely sold on that. Can’t a guy just like the number 23? Two of the greatest basketball players on the planet, Michael Jordan and LeBron James, both wore 23, right? The Islanders won the Stanley Cup when I was 23, Bob Nystrom wore 23 and I met my wife when I was 23.

Of course, when we get to the year 2023, I’ll be 66. That’s two of the three digits for the Mark of the Beast. Two of 3 digits…

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist (2018, 2020) and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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