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The Hawk's Nest:  88

I like to think I've been blessed in my life. Caring family.....Good friends.....A job I enjoy from which I get great satisfaction.....A delightful personality.....Rare intelligence, usually reserved for Nobel Prize recipients ( and Princeton graduates ).....Devastatingly good looks.....The love and respect of those with remarkably good taste.....Big hands.....Big feet.....Big, uh, gloves and shoes.....And, the greatest blessing of all, being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. It simply doesn't get any better.

I realize we've been mired in a rut of mediocrity for a few years. And with the loss of a couple of Cowboy stalwarts, the immediate future doesn't appear to offer significant relief. But with this organization's storied history to fill our sails, we can numb the pain of the present with a dose of the past. Just flip through the rolodex in our heads, and we can pull the card on any one of a thousand priceless memories.

It's actually an interesting exercise. You may be surprised, with everything this team has layed on the table, what pops into your head. The images are seemingly endless. I could list a few hundred to give you an idea of what it's like in my brain, but everyone here has there own experiences to draw from. And in all likelihood, they're not much different from mine.....With the exception of the younger BTBers, of course. Considering my fandom began in the mid-1970's, my rolodex would be a smidge thicker. Amid the Landrys and Staubachs and holes in the roof and countless other gems dancing a jig in the recesses of my mind, one pesky image keeps outshining the others.....88.

Not sure how you feel about it, but when I see a reciever in the royal blue and silver ( green pants not withstanding )tearing up a defense with that number emblazoned across his back, all feels right with the world. The perfect blend of style and substance. The question you need to ask yourselves, is who do you see floating through your memories when confronted by that magic number?

Do you picture a slim, knock-kneed man clutching the football to his hip as he backs into the endzone in frigid Minnesota?

Does a tall, rangy fellow, twisting away from a Buffalo defender as he stretches towards the endzone come to mind?

Or is it a broad-shouldered, trim-wasted kid, legs spread wide confidently, with forearms crossed in front of a defiant glare?

How you answer that question will explain a lot about your fandom. There's a diverse, multi-generational community amongst Cowboys fans. And one of the constants that links the different eras is the number 88. To me, it wouldn't be a Cowboys team without it. Like the Mona Lisa without the smile. Or sleep without dreams. Or Abbott without Costello. Or Michael Moore without the bile-inducing stench.....OK, bad example. That disturbing image aside, I believe you get my point.

For me, it begins and ends with Drew Pearson. Michael Irvin put his own personal stamp on it, and Dez Bryant is well on his way to adding greatness to the legacy. But as far as I'm concerned, the number will always belong to Mr. Pearson and all who follow are simply flag-bearers, raising his standard in tribute. I'll concede that Irvin put up better numbers, and Dez, barring an unfortunate mishap, will in all probability leave Drew's stats in the dust as well. But when you talk about a player's importance to his team, quantity rarely trumps quality. Not dumping on the memory of Irvin or the current contributions of Bryant. Each deserves whatever accolades come their way. But when the word clutch is written or spoken, Drew Pearson should get royalties. No one was better when the chips were down.

After being an UDFA in 1973, Pearson capped his rookie season with the game-winning touchdown against the Rams in the playoffs. The following year, in that famous Thanksgiving Day game, Drew caught the winning score from Clint Longley. Did it in the playoffs again in 1975.....This time from Roger Staubach..... And "Hail Mary" was born. In 1980, caught two late TDs from Danny White to send the Falcons home in the post-season. He was six inches away from making "The Catch" irrelevant in 1981. Got dragged down by the collar of his jersey a half a step away from paydirt. And those are just the ones off the top of my head.

I became a Cowboys fan because of Staubach. And when we got all the guys together in the neighborhood for a blood bath we used to call "All Against All", I pretended to be Randy White. But when it came down to brass tacks, I spray-painted 88 on my bicycle and the sides of my white Converses with the blue star. Ain't no turinin' back from that kinda commitment. Somehow, wearing those sneakers with that number on the sides, made me feel I could run like the wind. Well, in my case, it was more like a mild breeze.

Smooth. No other way to describe him. It was like watching mercury play football. The fact Drew Pearson has been over-looked by the Hall Of Fame committee is a spur in my heel that will fester until I'm planted. I say that because I don't believe he will ever be recognized by them for what he accomplished on the field. Whether it's anti-Cowboys sentiment or what. I don't know. That's not for me to judge. All I can do is relive the memories he was gracious enough to bestow upon me and do my part in enlightening the younger generation. The rest is beyond my control.

I know there's some younger guys and gals around these parts that share the same feelings about that jersey.. But their number 88 has a different name above it. You kids are gonna be telling the next wave of Cowboys fans about Michael Irvin and Dez Bryant. That's cool. From what I can see, they're the only two Dallas recievers since Drew that have been worthy enough to don the sacred digits. Just remember, when you relay the stories of your favorite "88", pay homage to the original. Give Drew Pearson ( and his totally awesome fro ) his due.

Those gentlemen are obviously the big three, but maybe none of them are the reason that particular number gets your motor running. Maybe there was another Cowboy sporting the jersey who made a difference in your life or inspired your fandom. So, to pacify the few who linger on the fringes, here's a list---and a nod---to every other player who has ever worn "88" in a Dallas Cowboys uniform. While their names don't roll off the tongue with the ease of other Cowboy greats, these fellas will always hold a revered place on the podium of team lure. Or in the very least, be the answer to a SportsRadio trivia question at two in the morning. It would be a shame if they were forgotten altogether. Well, maybe not a shame, but I still think I should get props for trying to keep their minor role in team history alive.

Sonny Davis, OLB.....1961

Sonny Randle, WR.....1968

Reggie Rucker, WR.....1969-70

Ron Sellers, WR.....1972

Jackie Harris, TE.....2000

Antonio Bryant, WR.....2002-04

Scott Chandler, TE.....2009

Golf claps all the way around for the anonymous 88s.

But what if you're not a football fan and still love the number 88? Would be a little odd since you're reading this on a football blog, but I'm in the mood to play along. Let's dig a little deeper and see what secrets that number holds outside the world of football and the Dallas Cowboys. Who knows. Maybe the correlation will have more significance than we anticipated. Or maybe this is a cheap, although clever, way to bump up the length of this post to make it appear I have more to contribute than just a few insightful revelations and hilariously side-splitting witticisms. I guess that's for history and the Pulitzer people to decide. We should probably reserve the final judgement for the experts.

In numerology, the essence of the 88 is an analytical approach to building something of long-term benefit. It's efficient, intuitive and consults it's inner knowingness for answers. In other words, knowing what you want to build, and having the clear intuition and analytical perception to do so efficiently.

The number 8 is the symbol of infinity. The number 88 symbolizes the double directions of the infinity of the universe.....The infinitely small and the infinitely large.

It takes the planet Mercury 88 days to revolve around the sun.

According to the International Astronomical Union, there are 88 constellations in the sky.

In Chinese culture, the number 88 symbolizes fortune and good luck.

In amateur radio, 88 is used as shorthand for "Love and Kisses", since the double 8s look like two pairs of lips.

88 millimeters is the standard length of playing cards.

88 is the atomic number of radium.

There are 88 keys on a piano---36 black and 52 white. In fact, 88 Keys is a character from Dick Tracy.

In the music industry, "88" stands for "HH", short for "hip hop".

In the movie Kill Bill, O-Ren Ishii's army was called the Crazy 88.

It was also the speed the DeLorean needed to reach in order to travel time in the movie Back To The Future.

88 is slang for the word "what" in the US Navy. "88 are you up to?"

The German 8.8 cm anti-aircraft gun used in World War ll was nicknamed the "88" ( acht-acht in German ).

Two types of butterflies ( Diaethria and Callicore ) are called Eighty-eights because patterns on their wings resemble the number 88.

Dale Earnhart, Jr. drives the 88 in Nascar.

A pair of 8s, coupled with a pair of aces, is commonly known as "The Dead Man's Hand" in poker.

I learned how to drive in an Oldsmobile 88. Thanks, Mr. Garvin. You had a helluva lot of patience.

And finally, 88 is pronounced in Chinese Mandarin as bay bay. The number is used in chats and texts to simulate the English pronunciation of "bye bye".

On that note....I don't think we uncovered any hidden connections between that particular number and why it has been so special to a certain group of Dallas Cowboys recievers, but it wasn't for lack of trying. I can't bring myself to believe that 88's marraige to the concept of luck had anything to do with their success on the field. The amount of work that goes into a productive NFL career has little to do with that fantastical notion. No, it's best if we avoid trying to explain how they've given us so many hours of joy and excitement, and just appreciate the gift of lasting memories that accompanies our Dallas Cowboys the number 88.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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