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Disingenuous Headware" The Personality of a Baseball Brand
In this audio essay from his KUCI fm radio broadcast, The SoCal Byte, Nathan reaches his limit trying to represent the cities and personalities of baseball.

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Thereís nothing more pathetic than a man born on third base who thinks he hit a triple. Heís generally dimwitted, yet if heís enough of a schmoozer heíll get others to believe his fantasy.

I’ve always been a fan of a reality-based world. In that regard, in the past I never wore a team’s colors, unless I was actually on the team. As for baseball, I wasn’t a player. I never hit a triple. I was a fan experiencing the ups and downs of my chosen team dressed like me, Nathan — not dressed like a player or coach, or, heaven forbid, a mascot.

If you look at early photos of ball park stands at Ebbets Field, Comiskey Park, The Polo Grounds, really anywhere in pre-branded baseball — there are no baseball jerseys or caps in the stands. Since the invisible hand of merchandizing hadn’t yet gripped the nads of the sports world, the people in these photographs look relaxed, more grounded — like they had lives outside of branding. Nowadays, a real fan can’t be seen without Boston Red Sox socks, or a New York Yankees Jersey, or a Detroit Tiger split neck T shirt, or a pair of St. Louis Cardinals nylon micro-twill swim trucks. People wear the colors of their team everywhere. They all seemed bumped-up silly to me — like lesser versions of the man who thought he hit a triple.

Then one day last year, in an effort to shade the ever expanding mass of skin scalp that’s replacing layers of hair on my head, I popped on a friend’s New York Mets baseball cap… and I liked it. Because I’m from Los Angeles, I went out and bought myself a Dodgers cap — fitted classic Dodger blue, L and A intertwined — and began wearing it on sunny days. Not only was it comfortable and utilitarian, if I wore my cap in public I’d often get a comment— a cheer, a sneer, a boo, a knowing glance. What a treat. Somehow, the rest of the world looked at me differently with an LA cap on — as if I was more “of Los Angeles.”

This pleased me. I love cities and the hat identified me with one. I represented not only the Dodgers, but Chavez Ravine, Pink’s, Tommy’s, Dorothy Chandler, Watt’s Towers, Central Avenue, David Hockney, X… let’s stop there.

Then I wondered. What would happen if I wore a San Francisco Giants cap? The Giants, of course, are the arch-archrivals of the Dodgers. Even Vin Scully, the ever cool overtoned voice of LA baseball, calls them “the hated Giants.” But I figured the Giants represent San Francisco. I love San Francisco. Why not represent it?

Wearing a Giants cap around LA had the locals thinking I was “of San Francisco.” At first, in the interest of safety, I told anyone who asked that I wasn’t really a Giants fan — but that I was exorcising my demons. That didn’t last. Then something kicked in. I soon found myself emoting like a native San Franciscan. After the Giants won the World Series last year, their first in over 50 years, people waved to me and said “congratulations.” There were a few boos. A checker at Trader Joe’s looked me dead on and said, “It’s about time.” I just laughed. What did he know? It’s not like I pretended that I hit a triple.

Next, I put on a Yankees cap, another archrival. It was like putting on makeup, only I was wearing Manhattan, Wall Street, Rockefeller, and CBGBs.

What next?

I’ve always liked the idea of Baltimore — the hometown of Cab Calloway, Phillip Glass and Charles Bukowski. So, before long I added an Orioles’ cap to my repertoire. I’m thinking that Detroit is next… or maybe even Chicago — the team of beautiful losers.

The point is with a little cap makeup, I can represent different cities and, as a result, different parts of myself. Am I in a John Waters mood? Baltimore. Or should I go Jello Biafra San Francisco? There’s a whole array of personality trait cities that I want to represent — Toronto, Cleveland, Kansas City, Seattle — the franchise awaits.

But I refuse to put on a Texas Rangers baseball cap. Why? Because the Rangers franchise is where George W. Bush got his start. Bush used his family’s name to become the Ranger’s managing general partner. He was the same self-important, coke-snorting, alcoholic frat boy schmoozer then as he is now — the consummate “man born on third base thinking he hit a triple.” Like I said, I’ve always been a fan of a reality-based world.

— Nathan Callahan


 
 
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