The Top Ten Numerals of 2016
Competition was fierce this year.
Repeating in tenth place is the number 10, the perennial “bridesmaid” in this competition — if a wedding is a thing where ten contestants are ordered by merit and the best nine are all brides. Much of 10’s campaign this year centered on it being uniquely composed of two different numerals, including last year’s winner, the number 1. “One and more” was a decent enough slogan to hoist 10 into this year’s top ten, but barely. Lots of room to grow in future years.
Having entered awards season as an assumed shoe-in for top three contention, 9 lost steam after some controversial remarks regarding its favorite Beatles song. Privately enjoying Revolution 9 is one thing, but judges cried foul at 9’s tweet declaring it “more than nine times better than Revolution 1.” Who knows where this contender would have ended up if shepherded by a professional crisis PR operation. As is, 9 landed pretty far in the basement, and deservedly so.
The bad boy. The pool shark. The teller of fortunes. 8 competed with a spirited, alternative pizazz that the judges couldn’t help but admire, even if many refused to align behind its flamboyant antics. Though only the top three winners are given time for speeches at the ceremony, upon being declared the eighth place winner 8 stood up at its seat and yelled “Hatless snowman! Zero wearing a belt! Sideways infinity!” — just a few of the nicknames 8 has picked up during its feverish rallies — before being removed by security to the sound of applause.
Tired of never cracking the top five, 7 decided this year to enlist the powerful publicity firm behind the number 1’s long string of wins. Hence those ubiquitous, cinematic commercials featuring the continents, the wonders of the world, and the days of the week. But this expensive campaign wasn’t enough to goose 7 out of its rut. Monday morning quarterbacks crowed that entire demographics could have been brought in with a simple mention of the deadly sins or a quick shout out to luck; but it’s just as likely that the judges would have seen such moves as desperate attempts to claim some unearned cool. Still, no one looked more distinguished or grateful at the ceremony than 7. A class act, in any position.
What’s to say that hasn’t already been said? Feared and admired equally, a skilled competitor and even savvier criminal, 6 has famously seduced and betrayed the numbers 1, 2 and 3, all in vain hopes of extracting their secrets to victory. Each left the exhausting affair with grudging respect for 6’s cunning and entreaties that 6 not be underestimated. The strangest rumor of all is that 6 paid off this year’s judges to award it 6th place and no better, to throw off the scent of deceit and set up a number one victory next year. When its award was announced, 6 sat motionless and silent in the audience. “I only answer if you say my name in Latin,” 6 later explained. “Or if you say it three times.”
Nearly disqualified for sending gold-plated starfish to several judges, 5 swore throughout the year that it would land in the top three or drop out of next year’s competition entirely. In fact, several of 5’s lucrative sponsorship contracts — Isotoner gloves and the Dallas Cowboys among them — required 5 to place third or better. But 5 landed in fifth once again, leaving it facing dim financial prospects and cowering in the shadow of its promise to forfeit. Press encamped outside 5’s Brentwood home report a steady stream of attorneys and handlers, but no sign of 5 itself, nor any explosion of its famously pent up anger.
A devoted parent and community activist, 4 has shunned the spotlight for decades, ever since its star faded when the government abandoned food groups in favor of the food pyramid. Still, 4 earned a respectable fourth place this year, showing its enduring popularity among the (mostly aging) judges, who likely remember 4’s heyday as a radical criminal justice reformer with a perfect GPA.
It seems that no one can knock “the sturdiest stool” out of the top three. 3 once again claimed the bronze position, earning the envy of seven numerals and the respect of two. Though famously even-keeled and above the fray, 3 did show some edge this season when an anonymous competitor began trolling its social media channels with the childish meme “poop plus pee equals 3.” After ignoring the abuse for weeks, 3 posted a selfie holding up its fore-, middle, and ring fingers, with a caption instructing the offending troll to “peel the banana.” Whichever cutthroat opponent was behind the smear campaign, they likely placed behind dependable 3.
A famously changeable Gemini, 2 is known to surprise with its behavior. After a particularly vicious response to winning second place last year (who can forget that full-page “twice as good as the winner” ad in the LA Times?), 2 maintained a mellow hippie vibe throughout this year’s festivities. When announced as the silver medal recipient, 2 flashed a peace sign and gave two quick bows, then devoted its entire acceptance speech to promoting a nonprofit that helps siamese twin animals: a somewhat esoteric charity and a equally superficial aura of positivity, but we’ll take it over 2’s occasional, infantile wrath, which we will likely see soon enough.
Going into the ceremony, Vegas odds showed 1 with a 70% chance of securing the title, based on momentum and name recognition alone. And slow motion replays of the moment of victory show that 1 actually started rising to its feet before its name was read. Hubris? Sure, but at this point it could have been muscle memory. As 1 strode to the podium to the sound of U2’s One, the room took to its feet and remained standing while the victor took a comically long time unfolding the piece of paper on which its speech was written. Then 1 donned its reading glasses and said, simply, “Thanks.” A singular competitor among numerous worthy opponents.