For John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow, the 2000 film Lucky Numbers was not their finest, although they have both since made far better movies, such as Travolta’s 2013 offering Killing Season.
With a 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Lucky Numbers grossed less than half of the amount it cost to make and yet, if you want to enjoy a film that doesn’t really require any depth or thought of concentration, then this is one for a rainy Sunday afternoon.
It is a story that revolves around numb ers and how they can make or break us. This film is loosely based on the 1980 Pennsylvania Lottery scandal. Also known as the Triple Fix Six, it was an attempt to fiddle the lottery numbers so that a small group of co-conspirators won big. It was an ingenious plot. It involved white latex paint injected into some balls but not others to make them heavier so that they wouldn’t be selected.
The ‘4s’ and ‘6s’ were left untouched. The winning number was 666 which, for some people, is considered the number of the devil.
This was enough to arouse suspicion but it is with some irony that the person who publicly announced their suspicion of a rigged lottery that night was Tony Grosso, the biggest numbers racketeer in Pittsburgh.
What happened was a crime and perpetrators were caught, the scandal exposed and the problem put right. And yet, for many people, the problems and superstitions with numbers remain strong.
A Global Phenomenon
Superstitions of numbers abound in all cultures, such as the Chinese avoiding the number 4 for the same reasons Western cultures prefer to avoid the number 13. It also applies to roulette scoring, and where the numbers are placed on different boards at American and European casinos.
Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is the fear of 666, the ‘number of the beast’. Avoiding mishaps on Friday 13th is something so prevalent in some people’s minds, they stay home.
Whether we mean to or not, we attach meaning to numbers. The turn of the 21st Century brought about a whole new combination of dates that people wanted to avoid and others welcomed.
Cricketers want to avoid the number ‘87’ as it is noted as being ‘cricket’s devil number’ as this is the time a batsman is most likely to run out, according to superstition.
And then there is the case of a Bulgarian telecommunications firm removing 0888 888 888 from their exchange as the three owners of the number all died in fairly quick succession.
The list of superstitious numbers goes on…
Are Numbers ‘Bad’?
There is no doubt that the right sequence of numbers can affect someone’s life, whether it is a lottery or roulette win. And more often than not, we select numbers because they mean something to us.
And then there are ‘special’ numbers, the digits we are drawn to such as ‘7’ because it feels lucky or ‘0’ because some say it is a non-number, a real lucky punt that could win big.
But aren’t all the odds the same when we play a game, spine the roulette wheel or play the lottery? They should be.