The number is as much a part of Red Sox lore as the Green Monster, Fenway franks and the curse of the Bambino.
That's how many years passed between the team's 1918 World Series victory and its next one in 2004. It's a number that has been used in so many descriptions of suffering fans ("86 years of despair and disappointment" . . . "86-year drought" . . . "86 long and depressing years") that it's iconic.
Do a Google search on the phrase "86 years," as we did, and five of the first 10 listings relate to the Red Sox.
But when Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a self-described "true-suffering fan" of the Sox, spoke about his team at the CNN/YouTube debate on Nov. 28, 2007, he used a different number:
In fact, he used the wrong number twice in a row.
"Eighty-seven long years," Romney said. "We waited 87 long years. And true suffering Red Sox fans that my family and I are, we could not have been more happy than to see the Red Sox win the World Series, except by being able to beat the Yankees when they were ahead three games to none."
It wasn't exactly the magnitude of Bill Buckner's blunder in Game 6 of the '86 World Series (there's that number again!), when the ball rolled through his legs, letting the winning run score. But to Sox fans, it was a significant mistake.
And so, even though he was only off by a year, we award Romney a False. A Sox fan should know better.