Head games

In early June I was wandering along a sidewalk on my way to a dog show in a neighboring down and happened across a Boston Red Sox hat hanging on a parking meter. It was one of the rogue ones that’s emerged in recent years — olive-green instead of navy blue, but with the same red “B” with a white border on the front. I took and kept it for a while, but wasn’t really keen on it and ultimately left it for someone else to find. (This wasn’t the first time I’ve kept a had I have found during a walk or a run.)

About six weeks ago, I was walking down Valmont Road in North Boulder and found another Red Sox hat, this one in the traditional style. Given that this was the second Red Sox hat I had found in a five- or six-week period — in Colorado, no less — and that I did grow up a Red Sox fan, I figured that this was either an entertaining coincidence or a sign from God, so I held on to this one and now wear it daily.

You can see that this is no — aw, shit, that’s not helpful, is it?

Okay, better. So I wear this thing all over town, and I am out and about quite a bit because I usually walk or take the bus to “work” and have also been doing what for me is an unusual amount of running. I See People. I don’t engage them with the avidity of someone who’s really that interested in what anyone else has to say, but I’m at least as cordial and chipper as anyone else in this town not obtunded by cannabis. We have exchanges. And I can say without a trace of exaggeration that not a day on which I’ve worn the hat in public has gone by without a comment about this hat from a stranger.

For one thing, as this hat has hammered home, there are a lot of New England transplants in Boulder. It makes sense; the majority of the region’s people are crammed into a couple of metro areas, and access to mountains and lakes in this geographically small area is easy whether you live in downtown Providence or Calais, Maine. People like to be outside, and Boulder is nonpareil when it comes to this (although its being landlocked may earn it demerits in the eyes of some; I am not a fan of the beach myself). For another, a phenomenon that strikes me as curious has enveloped, it seems, the whole country: Red Sox Nation. When I was a kid, I loved the Red Sox, but that was automatic — they were on local television virtually every day in the summer. There are a lot of Sox fans in places far, far from Beantown, and considering that I grew up in the fringes of metro Boston believing that people elsewhere hated Boston — its people with their grating accents, its loudmouthed fans and its bleached and generally successful sports franchises — I couldn’t make sense of this. But then it’s no longer 1986, and the Sox — a team I still nominally root for, although my main concern is not that they win World Series but humiliate the Yankees on a regular basis — have had some truly likable players in recent years (Pedroioa, Youkilis, Ortiz, Ellsbury come to mind first) and their stock in America’s eyes had to have risen when they dumped the Mannyvirus a couple years ago.

Anyway, I’ve heard from everyone: Library patrons, cyclists, bank tellers, fellow RTD passengers, Pearl Street drunkards. Thumbs-up gestures and “go Boston!” or “Go Sox!” are so common as to be an integral part of my day now, if not my well-being. And with the Sox in a heated pennant race with the Yanks once again (at the moment they are 1/2 game up with fewer than 30 to play, and it’s virtually assured that the loser of this race will be the American League’s wild-card playoff entry), this is all the more pressing, inasmuch as what an adult male sticks on his bean by way of making some kind of tacit statement about highly paid mercenaries, hiding his unkempt hair or both.

Four years ago, the Colorado Rockies made the World Series. They were swept in four games by…the Red Sox. Now they suck. Last year they had one of the most entertaining collapses in the history of baseball, at least among teams not that great to begin with. With 28 games left, they went on a 14-game winning streak that brought them to within, I think, two games of the first-place (and eventual World Series-winning) Giants. They then lost 14 in a row to close out the season. You can’t beat that kind of awesome performance amplitude, and all throughout, they had the support of locals. Denver really does get behind its pro sports teams, even when they are mediocre, which in recent seasons has been true far more often than not. So I suspect that despite the spate of positive comments my hat earns me, a lot of stuff goes unsaid by those who, given a prefrontal-cortex lesion or a Budweiser lobotomy, might in fact have strongish feelings on the subject. Unfortunately there will be no Rockies-Sox Series match-up this year, so there’s only so much glamour this compelling issue is going to command.

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