Number 8 (Day Forty Nine)
We entered our eighth state – Kentucky – via boat. The night before we assumed there would be a bridge before we learned we would take a boat. My mom (aka Mama Bear) said it was their version of the Port Jeff Ferry, a passenger/car service that ‘bridges the Long Island Sound’ from Port Jefferson, NY to Bridgeport CT. I had made this trip many times in my youth, especially when I attended college at the University of Connecticut. Turns out, it wasn’t exactly the Port Jeff Ferry. A tugboat type vessel pushed a barge-like thing across the river for a few feet. The guy operating this ferry (loosely defined) told me the trip is made about 100 times a day. I did the math based on how long it took to load up and paddle across and that doesn’t seem possible. But you get the point, this is not the Port Jeff Ferry, which takes 1.5 hours and probably costs $300 for car and driver these days! Kidding about the $300 (I think), but it much more expensive than the free ride we hitched across the Ohio River to Kentucky to state 8.
I believe we entered Kentucky when we got off the boat, or maybe even halfway across the river, but nevertheless the ‘Welcome to Kentucky’ sign was a little down the road, which I was happy about since we had the opportunity to take the official boarding crossing picture. The sign has seen better days as you can see from the picture. As we held up 8 fingers, I also took some time to think about the significance of this number in my life and others that followed...
In the fall of 1979, I was 8 years old and made my first team that I ever had to try out for. We were called the Sachem Bucks, and we were a 1971 boys travel soccer team. I spent much of my childhood with this team and coach Richie Miller, but that’s a whole book of stories in it of itself. Immediately after the coveted final roster was posted (back then it was ok to get cut as a child and learn you had to get better!!), I remember we picked our numbers out of a hat. I had struck gold (relatively, for an kid) by pulling out #10, which was coveted because of Pele’, who I think is still regarded as the greatest soccer player ever. He scored 1000+ goals and won 3 World Cups with Brazil and played on other professional teams, including the New York Cosmos, who signed him when he was 50, or something like that! So when I picked the number, one of the other players, Christian Cunningham, who I still know today, was very upset (Note: I won’t say he was crying since I don’t want to embarrass him publically), and asked me if I would trade him numbers. He had number 8. In an unselfish and noble act (being sarcastic, come on, I was 8), I traded him and to this day I remember thinking 8 was not a bad number. Maybe it was because I was 8 at the time, but who knows what I was thinking back then. The rest is history.
8 has been my number ever since. I wore it in soccer, hockey and lacrosse. I was a defensive back in football, so I couldn’t wear 8 and that pissed me off. I have a tribal 8 tattooed on the inside of my right leg. I did spent some time in casinos in my younger days and you can be sure I always had ‘hard 8’ covered on the craps table and I would always stack-em’-high on number 8 on the roulette wheel. I once hit 2 times in a row (35-1) on number 8 and won the most cabbage I ever won in my life, which probably broke me even for all the ‘hard 8s’ and number 8s I didn’t hit on in my life! More importantly, 8 has been passed to my younger brother and sister, who also wore the number proudly in multiple sports. I hope they were inspired by their big brother, who was always relying on hustle for success in lieu of the raw talent they both have. And now, my brother’s kids wear number 8. It makes me proud, and to think it all started with a baseball card like trade (remember baseball card trading anyone?!) in an elementary school gym in 1979. Thanks Christian.
The final 8 story comes from my 20th high school reunion, in 2009, 20 years after the now famous (at least for me) trade between Christian Cunningham and Kevin Mincio. A women walked up to me and said “Mincio…are you Mincio?” and I said yes. She said she felt like she heard my name all the time, because when her husband Jamie, a good friend of mine from HS, played cards, he would always yell out ‘I have a pair of Mincios” whenever he had 8s in his hand – obviously after all bets were in. Thanks for the loyalty Jamie and keep pulling 8s buddy. It’s a lucky number. At least it’s been for me. Hopefully it continues down the road in Kentucky, state 8 where the intel has the road conditions challenging.
To the Limit,