When I say No. 22, who comes to mind?
Do you immediately think of the Dallas Cowboys' all-time best runner? Or their all-time best rusher? Or perhaps instead the second-leading all-time scorer in the history of the Dallas Mavericks?
The quest is to attach a Dallas/Fort Worth player to every sports uniform 0-99. A fantasy roster, if you will.
The criterion for determining which local athlete "owns" a specific number is as simple as it is subjective. It's not necessarily the best player to wear the number, but more so an associative combination of performance, personality, pizzazz and perseverance.
Bob Hayes vs. Emmitt Smith seems a juicy first bite. When Hayes was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last month it reminded me how cool - how fast - he was as the greatest number 22 in franchise history. Then Smith's image as the NFL's all-time leading rusher plunged into the conversation, followed closely by Rolando Blackman. Double-deuce may be, in fact, the most talented number in the history of Dallas sports.
But it's certainly not the most easily identifiable. Some numbers are indelible. Bless David Murphy because Texas Rangers' new/old catcher Pudge Rodriguez will always be No. 7. I say 12 and you see Roger Staubach. Nolan Ryan is No. 34. Roy Tarpley, for all the wrong reasons, evokes No. 42.
But who is our definitive No. 9: Tony Romo? Mike Modano? Maybe even Tatu? At 19: Eric Dickerson or Juan Gonzalez? The tug-of-war for numerical immortality at No. 20 is between a baseball MVP (Jeff Burroughs), a Stanley Cup champion (Ed Belfour) and an NFL Hall of Famer (Mel Renfro). Who's the better gritty captain at No. 10: the Rangers' Michael Young or the Stars' Brenden Morrow? Does No. 24 belong to the Mavs' Mark Aguirre or the Cowboys' Everson Walls? Do you associate No. 37 with the good of Doak Walker or the bad of Kenny Rogers? Is our No. 44 the heightened disappointment of Mavs' center Shawn Bradley or the diminutive desire of Cowboys' fullback Robert Newhouse?
This roster, of course, is fluid. A year ago Terrell Owens was our area's greatest all-time No. 81. Now he's in Buffalo and his reputation 'round these parts has been 86'd. T.O. vs. Jackie Smith just might make 81 our most heinous number. Is Mavericks' point guard Jason Kidd No. 5 (circa 1994) or No. 2 (circa 2008) or neither (circa all the years in between)? Can Rangers' shortstop Elvis Andrus someday - if not already - steal No. 1 from Rafael Septien? Can Cowboys' receiver Roy Williams overtake Danny White for 11? Felix Jones seemingly has a ways to go before catching Darren Woodson at 28. But Rangers' surprising ace Scott Feldman is closer than you think to owning 39. Is Neftali Feliz a legitimate threat to Dan Reeves at No. 30?
For my money, Randy White is a more deserving 54 than Chuck Howley, but just barely. Nate Newton's 61 - tainted as it is - dwarfed the laughable legacy of the Rangers' Chan Ho Park. Jethro Pugh edges Tony Casillas for 75, John Niland is still holding off Flozell Adams at 76, Harvey Martin is No. 79 over Erik Williams, Alvin Harper owns 80 over Tony Hill, Golden Richards No. 83 over Kelvin Martin and Jay Novacek is the better No. 84 tight end over Doug Cosbie.
No. 88: Gotta be Michael Irvin over Drew Pearson. Right?
If the 2009 Cowboys are to have a playoff season, Anthony Spencer needs to make us forget Peppi Zellner at 93, DeMarcus Ware needs to convincingly snatch 94 away from Charles Haley, and Marcus Spears needs to unseat Ebenezer Ekuban at 96.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but this Dallas dream lineup surely is worth a couple lively debates. For the record, Smith's unprecedented production ultimately tops Hayes' legendary speed for No. 22.
Grab a beer, choose a side and pick a number. Any number.
00 Eric Montross, Mavericks' center
0 Al Oliver, Rangers' outfielder
1 Rafael Septien, Cowboys' kicker
2 Derian Hatcher, Stars' defenseman
3 Alex Rodriguez, Rangers' shortstop
4 Michael Finley, Mavs' guard
5 Jason Kidd, Mavs' guard
6 Tom Grieve, Rangers' outfielder/GM/ broadcaster
7 Ivan Rodriguez, Rangers' catcher
8 Troy Aikman, Cowboys' quarterback
9 Mike Modano, Stars' forward
10 Michael Young, Rangers' shortstop
11 Danny White, Cowboys' quarterback
12 Roger Staubach, Cowboys' quarterback
13 Steve Nash, Mavs' guard
14 Julio Franco, Rangers' second baseman
15 Brad Davis, Mavs' guard
16 Brett Hull, Stars' forward
17 Don Meredith, Cowboys' quarterback
18 Chris Boniol, Cowboys' kicker
19 Juan Gonzalez, Rangers' outfielder
20 Ed Belfour, Stars' goalie
21 Deion Sanders, Cowboys' cornerback
22 Emmitt Smith, Cowboys' running back
23 Mark Teixeira, Rangers' first baseman
24 Mark Aguirre, Mavs' forward
25 Rafael Palmeiro, Rangers' first baseman
26 Johnny Oates, Rangers' manager
27 Thomas Everett, Cowboys' safety
28 Darren Woodson, Cowboys' safety
29 Rusty Greer, Rangers' outfielder
30 Dan Reeves, Cowboys' running back
31 Fergie Jenkins, Rangers' pitcher
32 Josh Hamilton, Rangers' outfielder
33 Tony Dorsett, Cowboys' running back
34 Nolan Ryan, Rangers' pitcher
35 John Wetteland, Rangers' pitcher
36 Gaylord Perry, Rangers' pitcher
37 Doak Walker, SMU running back
38 Roy Williams, Cowboys' safety
39 Mike Henneman, Rangers' pitcher
40 Bill Bates, Cowboys' safety
41 Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs' forward
42 Roy Tarpley, Mavs' forward
43 Cliff Harris, Cowboys' safety
44 Shawn Bradley, Mavs' center
45 A.C. Green, Mavs' forward
46 Mark Washington, Cowboys' cornerback
47 Dexter Clinkscale, Cowboys' safety
48 Daryl Johnston, Cowboys' fullback
49 Charlie Hough, Rangers' pitcher
50 D.D. Lewis, Cowboys' linebacker
51 Ken Norton Jr., Cowboys' linebacker
52 Dexter Coakley, Cowboys' linebacker
53 Mark Stepnoski, Cowboys' center
54 Randy White, Cowboys' defensive lineman
55 Lee Roy Jordan, Cowboys' linebacker
56 Thomas Henderson, Cowboys' linebacker
57 Vinson Smith, Cowboys' linebacker
58 Mike Hegman, Cowboys' linebacker
59 Jeff Zimmerman, Rangers' pitcher
60 Don Smerek, Cowboys' defensive lineman
61 Nate Newton, Cowboys' offensive lineman
62 John Fitzgerald, Cowboys' offensive lineman
63 Mike Ribeiro, Stars' forward
64 Tom Rafferty, Cowboys' offensive lineman
65 Andre Gurode, Cowboys' offensive lineman
66 George Andrie, Cowboys' defensive lineman
67 Russell Maryland, Cowboys' defensive lineman
68 Herb Scott, Cowboys' offensive lineman
69 George Hegamin, Cowboys' offensive lineman
70 Rayfield Wright, Cowboys' offensive lineman
71 Mark Tuinei, Cowboys' offensive lineman
72 Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Cowboys' defensive lineman
73 Larry Allen, Cowboys' offensive lineman
74 Bob Lilly, Cowboys' defensive lineman
75 Jethro Pugh, Cowboys' defensive lineman
76 John Niland, Cowboys' offensive lineman
77 Jim Jeffcoat, Cowboys' defensive lineman
78 Leon Lett, Cowboys' defensive lineman
79 Harvey Martin, Cowboys' defensive lineman
80 Alvin Harper, Cowboys' receiver
81 Terrell Owens, Cowboys' receiver
82 Jason Witten, Cowboys' tight end
83 Golden Richards, Cowboys' receiver
84 Jay Novacek, Cowboys' tight end
85 Kevin Williams, Cowboys' receiver
86 Butch Johnson, Cowboys' receiver
87 Jay Saldi, Cowboys' tight end
88 Michael Irvin, Cowboys' receiver
89 Mike Ditka, Cowboys' tight end
90 Alonzo Spellman, Cowboys' defensive lineman
91 Brad Richards, Stars' forward
92 Tony Tolbert, Cowboys' defensive lineman
93 Peppi Zellner, Cowboys' defensive lineman
94 Charles Haley, Cowboys' defensive lineman
95 Chad Hennings, Cowboys' defensive lineman
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96 Ebenezer Ekuban, Cowboys' defensive lineman
97 La'Roi Glover, Cowboys' defensive lineman
98 Greg Ellis, Cowboys' defensive lineman
99 Kevin Brooks, Cowboys' defensive lineman