Just let me wear my Giants’ cap with no fanfare
The Giants’ cap was officially put away for the season on Wednesday, placed in a Tupperware cake container and tucked onto the top shelf of the bedroom closet. It was a quiet ceremony, with only the dog and myself present. I had a few words prepared, and they went like this:
Thank you, official Giants cap. In all the annals of my personal headwear, your season was by far the most productive. You went above and beyond the call of duty, lasting farther into October than any of my caps ever has. It was quite a ride, wasn’t it? Well, time for a well-deserved rest. Sorry I dropped you in the aquarium that time. See you in the spring.
Guys have very special relationships with their caps. It is estimated that the average male spends 38.5 years of his life wearing a sports-related cap.
In fact, I’m wearing one now in the very photo contained in this column. The dog is also wearing one, although he’s too short to be seen in the photo.
But that relationship changes over time — at least it has for me. When I was a kid I would wear my Giants’ cap at all times, even in the bathtub. It was a symbol of my devotion to the team, and forgetting to wear it to school or out to play would surely be bad luck for the Giants. I wore my cap with the same patriotic fervor that people today have for displaying the American flag. The
only difference was, when my Giants’ cap got a little frayed, I bought a new one. Hear that, people? It’s time to remove those tattered flags from your car antennas, you morons. But I digress.
Then, you get older. In your 20s, wearing a cap was, you thought, a way to look cool. Sometimes I would wear my cap backward. I was into all sorts of experimentation at that age — St. Louis Cardinals’ caps, New York Mets, even other sports, like auto racing or hockey. It was the Age of Aquarius.
Then as middle age approached, caps became more practical. We wore them to hide a bald spot, or keep the sun out of our eyes while driving, or simply to keep our head warm. I have one friend who wore a cap just so that he could display a collection of his sons’ Little League award pins. Such gaudy displays are quite tasteless and should be discouraged, in my opinion.
Sometimes I’ll buy a cap just because it looks good. I like the University of North Carolina cap, and wear one occasionally, even though I’m not particularly a fan of any of their sports teams. But here’s one odd thing about wearing a cap that I have never understood: Upon seeing the cap, why do people automatically assume that you are that team’s biggest supporter?
People who would never think of talking to a stranger suddenly feel compelled, on seeing your cap, to open up like you were their therapist.
One day last week I was in a Barnes & Noble, purchasing a couple of newspapers. I go up to the counter to pay for the papers, and the clerk says, without any sort of preliminary greeting whatsoever: “I bet a friend of mine that Russ Ortiz will not win Game 7.”
“Um, you did?”
“I’m an A’s fan,” the clerk continued, not bothering yet to ring up my papers. The people in line behind me were beginning to shift impatiently. “So I don’t really care what happens in the World Series. But Ortiz is going to have a bad day, I just know it.”
Did I know this guy? Suddenly I remembered, I was wearing the Giants’ cap. I tend to forget, since I wear it all the time, I take it for granted.
The clerk went on.
“Do you think they should have pitched Reuter instead?”
I was trying to come up with a way to break off this conversation without appearing rude. Some people have bumper stickers that read: “Ask me about my grandchildren,” but no one actually asks them about their grandchildren. So why do people ask me about my Giants? I’m thinking of having some cards printed, and they would read:
Look, just because I’m wearing a Giants’ cap doesn’t mean I’m their pitching coach. These caps are freely available to the public, and it’s just possible that I’m a casual fan. Please move along, thank you.
And it only seems to apply to sports. For instance, when I wear my 2001: A Space Odyssey cap, clerks do not quiz me on director Stanley Kubrick. But just try wearing a Lakers’ hat around town, and you had better be an expert on the NBA, or suffer the consequences.
On the other hand, my Giants’ cap and I have been through a lot together. The truth is that I’m not just a casual fan. I was beginning to think that my cap and I would go through our entire lives without either one of us witnessing our team win a World Series game. Thankfully, we got to see three. Four would have been nice, but hey, you’ve got to have something to shoot for.
If the Giants would have won the World Series, I might be compelled to retire the Giants’ cap for good. Wearing a cap has never been for me a boastful symbol of achievement. My Giants’ cap is, instead, a sign of solidarity with other long-suffering Giants’ fans. Wearing the lid of a World Championship team makes one look like a front-runner. An opportunist. Or possibly employed by QVC. That’s not for me.
So beginning in the spring, I will break out the Giants’ cap for one more season, tilting at windmills. At least my head will be warm.
–Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at NBCSports.com.
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