There are a lot of reasons why crossing another number off of life's tally sheet might be considered a negative. I'm noticeably more gray at the temples now than I was at this time last year, for example. The hangovers hurt more than they used to. My God, do they. And let's not kid ourself - every additional numeral represents that much additional sand that's fallen through the aperture into the wrong half of the hourglass.
But in my case, at least this year, there's one substantial advantage to tacking on one more number.
As I assume most of you do, I associate each year of my life with the uniform number worn by an athlete, famous or just important to me. 33 was awesome, because Larry Bird. (I had a daughter that year, too, which was pretty cool, too, I guess.) I'm really looking forward to 77, for obvious reasons.
But 44 is so much better than 43. Dennis Eckersley's not bad, and he played for the Red Sox. And Richard Petty is The King. Brad Daugherty wore the digits in his honor. My man Darren Sproles carried 43, too. The pickings are slim for that prime number, though.
44, on the other hand, represents royalty. Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Jim Brown, and George Gervin wore double fours. So did Willie McCovey, Chris Pronger, and Dan Issel. Mr. NBA himself, Jerry Brown, wore 44. Pistol Pete, too. Nolan Ryan threw a no-hitter when he was 44.
Intermission: Here's an awesome video of Gervin and Maravich playing a televised game of H-O-R-S-E. Ignore Pete's number 7 - he wished he were wearing his favorite digits:
Closer to home for me, Orlando Cabrera donned 44 when the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004. It was Danny Ainge's number when I was a huge Celtics fan as a kid - he won a pair of championships in that jersey. POTUS 44, too, suits me just fine.
There's a guy, though, that ends this discussion, even given the greats that have worn number 44. Clarence, I'm quite certain, grasped this punch line about five paragraphs ago, Sandy baby.
44 is the baddest ass of all years, because of this guy:
May my 44th year be filled with a fraction of the spirit, camaraderie, and joie de vivre that characterizes Riggo's time on Earth. And in those too-often moments when you catch me worrying about shit that's far too petty, may you call me on it, Riggo-style.