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Happy 13th Birthday, Hustle Belt!

Lucky number 13 is finally here. The going is getting tough, but the tough always get going, don’t they?

A sea of tranquility wouldn’t be befitting of the Great Lakes.
James H. Jimenez

The number 13 is a fairly significant one. Whether that significance is good, bad or indifferent is up to the person interpreting it.

The tarot card XIII is “death,” often depicted as The Pale Horse from the Four Horsemen myth. Whether that’s literal or figurative, it’s a dreaded card which oft brings anxiety to the customer getting the reading.

The number 13 is fraught with tension in Catholic circles. 13 disciples were seated at the Last Supper, but Judas Iscariot ends up being a double agent, turning Jesus of Nazareth over to the Roman authorities in Jerusalem for 40 pieces of silver. The Knights Templar also suffered the effective end of their order on Oct. 13, 1307, when Phillip IV ordered the arrest of the group for heretical and blasphemous behaviors, which resulted in the torture and deaths of hundreds of members of the Knights.

An incorrect interpretation of the Mayan calendar ultimately reared its head in 2012, when an out-of-control theory about its possible meaning culminated in an end-of-world scenario which (obviously) was disproved fairly quickly.

The number 13 can sometimes be referred to as a “Devil’s Dozen”, the influence of which can be seen especially in the constructions of modern buildings. What is usually the 13th floor is often replaced with the numerals for 14 instead, marking every floor after that one number higher than its reality. (Talk about a problem at scale.)

In sports, 13 is generally avoided as an unlucky number. It’s particularly verboten in motorsports; the number was banned by rule when registering for the Indianapolis 500 from 1926 to 2002. (This was a codification of what was a formerly unwritten rule, as no one had selected the number since 1915.) It took seven years after the rule was lifted for a driver to finally wear the number in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, with E.J. Viso finishing 24th of 33 entries in the 2009 edition of the race, dropping out with a steering issue on... Lap 139.

13 is similarly disregarded in American ball sports; unless it’s absolutely necessary, you’re not going to see many athletes willingly choose 13 if it’s available. Dan Marino and Odell Beckham Jr. are rarities in that respect. When he was at Central Michigan, Dan LeFevour also chose #13 and had success— but changed over to 15 when drafted by the Chicago Bears, ultimately never wearing #13 in any of his NFL stints. (He did wear #13 in Hamilton and Toronto in his CFL career, primarily as a backup.)

But here’s the thing: despite its reputation, 13 isn’t all that bad, really.

Last year, we discussed how being 12 years old can be a scary time in the development of a youth. It’s that first year where you start to really understand and gain awareness of the world around you, and that can bring with it some realizations.

The number 13 is considered a bridge in our collective human culture.

The age of 13 is often perceived as the start of puberty, the transition from child to fully-fledged adult. In Judaism, this is marked with a bar (or bat) mitzvah, a celebration of reaching the “age of majority”.

There are other, secular hurdles to mark this change as well.

The age of 13 can often the line of demarcation for the jump from middle to high school. The age of 13 is also the minimum age to be able to sign up for a social media account in the United States. 13-year-olds can also purchase games rated “T” for teen, as the official category is meant for ages 13+. Those who play sports go from U12 teams to middle school clubs or travel leagues meant for those 13-17 years old, a significant jump in competitiveness.

To put the previous 640 words plainly: We as humans attach meanings to everything, and the number 13 is no exception.

For Hustle Belt, turning 13 means a chance to re-dedicate ourselves to our cause. With college sports in a more uncertain place than we’ve seen in decades thanks to a recent shift in realignment at the Power Five levels, there’s something to be said about being a blog dedicated to a conference which hasn’t changed its full membership since 1998.

Stability in an unstable world is an oasis; a safe little island in a chaotic sea. One has the luxury of meditating upon a rock in the midst of a storm in such a situation, actively making the choice to not concern oneself with what one cannot control.

Such insular actions could possibly be derided as being of the past or anti-thetical of the growth mindset which permeates the current socioeconomic landscape (i.e.: funny number go up) but I think instead, focusing on what it is we cherish dearly is the way to combat such dangerous waters.

In a way, our blog reflects the conference from which it is born.

Hustle Belt is made up of some of the most passionate and well-informed fans of the Mid-American Conference I know. Dave D. and Ken B. have been here since even before I signed on in 2014. (In fact, Dave just hit Beer Garden review #700 earlier this week!) Steve H. has been an indispensable part of our crew since he helped cover WMU’s Cotton Bowl run in 2016. Keith G. is a wealth of knowledge on the history of Ohio football, and Rocket is our king of the eclectic when it comes to MAC-related trivia. Drew P.’s use of advanced statistics in both football and baseball coverage lend to educating our readership.

Even some of the newbies display a lot of potential. Drew C. has been a great addition for our NFL Draft coverage with his experience on the pro side of analysis and will be a major help for MAC football this season. Adam A. is a hard worker who gives our basketball coverage for both the men’s and women’s game great care every week. Sam K. is an eager and ready contributor who I believe will being great BGSU and women’s soccer coverage to our site this season. John E. will soon bring his unique historical voice to the fold, as well as provide football coverage, and I can’t wait for you to meet him.

Even with all the changes to SB Nation in the past year (one of which ultimately affected our podcast), we have and will continue to persevere, adapting and changing our approach to be as digestible and informative as possible without giving up our voice or selling ourselves off to the SEO gods.

Our partnership with the College Sports Connection Podcast on making the Mobile #MACtion App is one step towards continuing to spread that gospel in an advocate’s light. We hope you’ll join us in that journey and make the project a success.

Whether you’re a freshman on campus who is learning about the school’s traditions for the first time, a casual on-looker who found us from the memes, or you’re a grizzled veteran of fairly-local regional cable broadcasts in the pre-Championship Game era, we hope our coverage has represented the conference well.

Staying true to our voice by proudly exalting the stories of our 12 members and chronicling their stories instead of engaging in speculation or chasing virality is a role we cherish, even as the world of college athletics and media continues to change around us.

Hustle Belt has always striven to find passionate, local voices whenever possible, and to provide a reliable and free source of news and analysis of the Best Little Conference in the Midwest.

We have always lived with a proud spirit like that; anything less would be a betrayal of our values and those HB alum who came before us.

Goodness willing, we intend it to stay that way for as long as possible.

Happy 13th birthday, Hustle Belt. Here’s to many more.

If you’d like to contribute as a writer, please check out this link here and follow the instructions! Thank you very much for reading.

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