Tip of the hat

By Davis Jones

In a man’s life, there comes a time when he must look hard in the mirror and decide for what purpose a Major League Baseball Hat serves. An item that complements the look? A symbol of your team devotion? Some men know neither.

My head’s too awkward to look good in a cap. It’s like a pre-teen in head circumference, too big for most sizes that look like little measuring cups flipped over on my head, but too small for the Goliath sizes fit for watermelons. The ‘Davis Size’ for a snapback is stuck somewhere between two notches I can’t find. It’s a Platform 9 ¾ in New Era fabric.

The devotion involves geography and criss-crossed boundaries. I’ve loved the Seattle Mariners ever since I knew they were the closest major league team to Oregon, my home state. My brother and I won a sign-up contest as 11-year-olds, where we sat in a Safeco Field media box with a journalist whose beard was the color of TV static and who looked like a man who owned ten of the same fleece sweater. He treated us both with undeserved kindness the entire night, and it felt natural being that age to expand that quality to the entire organization and also to shrink it on the essence of the single club. I was hooked on being a Mariner.

As I got older, the clean-cut edges of loyalty in sports inched further apart. Turns out that a rivalry existed between Portland and Seattle. I always viewed the two as a sort of hip fraternity with mandatory Starbucks and North Face Jackets. The spat between the Blazers and the Sonics turned into something heavier for me when Kevin Durant took his talents to Oklahoma City. The team still might have been quintessentially northwestern, but the increased distance between us now created an enemy where once stood one side of the same coin, now both hating each other out of geographical obligation. The OKC personnel were the same. And yet, they were states apart, another world blurred between kilometers and county lines.

The Mariners haven’t moved cities, but with the frowns of disapproving looks every time I watch the team on TV, you’d have assumed they packed up years ago. “You’re not from Seattle,” they say. “You can’t be a fan.”

I might not have Seattle roots, but even worse would be to root myself to a team because of its wins first and its location second. I’ve seen more Denver Broncos orange during this last semester than I’ve seen in my last six. Either everyone went into hibernation with John Elway for the past three years or Denver is suddenly the most exciting team to root for in the National Football League. I remember when Miami Heat jerseys were a thrift shop steal. Did our school’s Florida demographic jump overnight? Yes. They hopped the wagon and headed west. It’s a trip I’m unwilling to make. I’ll walk.

What the heck. I’m feeling bold: I feel the same way with a lot of San Francisco Giants fans. Not many black and orange caps bobbed across campus in September, especially compared to last year.

Of course fan support will increase when a team does well. But that’s just it: it should increase. It shouldn’t appear out of thin air. Devotion shouldn’t sit in the back of your closet on the top shelf with cobwebs covering the lid. I’m not saying that Giants fans should sport game apparel every day. Just brush the cobwebs away from time to time. Hats are an any-season clothing article. Break it out after October every once in awhile.

I want to buy my first Mariners hat this holiday season ever since that trip to Safeco as a kid. My wants differ from my rights, though, even if those rights are imposed by a culture whose team allegiances are your funeral wills on which to die, at the end of your run, knowing you never crossed over to the dark side. It’s why I’m having trouble denouncing a team that gave so much light to my sports universe growing up. Was it wrong to cheer them on? Could I find a hat that would let me do it?

The good news is that I have plenty of time. Seattle won’t lift up a World Series trophy anytime soon, so I have reason to think it over before they (hopefully) improve or (hopefully not) consider relocating to Antarctica. I’m thinking by then that the cap will fit.