By Pat Costello
One of the weird traditions that has arisen in the last few decades is for athletes to receive a hat and a t-shirt after winning a big game. For example, immediately following each NCAA team’s Elite Eight win, the players received black hats with the words “2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four” arched around their team’s logo. While I understand the idea – companies can sell the hats to fans of the teams – there is one fatal flaw: the hats are always hideous.
The aforementioned Final Four hats have a strange white stripe around the front of the brim, look like something that your uncle would wear to go play golf at a local public course. Even if you were a fan of one of the four teams, why would you want to purchase such an ugly memento, especially when your uncle could play that round of golf for a cheaper price than buying that hat?
The thing that bothered me most was that last year’s Final Four hats were phenomenal. The words “Final Four” were appropriately stitched in huge gold letters set on a black hat, with the teams’ logo on the side. It was a clean look that perfectly fit the situation. How can you go from a fantastic hat, to one that Rodney Dangerfield would want a free bowl of soup with?
It’s not just the NCAA that has this problem either. It’s pretty much universal in the sports world. In 2008, when the Phillies won the World Series, I was stoked to see what their hat would look like. When I saw World Series MVP Cole Hamels wearing it on television, however, my opinion immediately shifted. This was the third greatest moment of my life, after being born and learning all of the words to Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi,” and yet I was disappointed in the look of Hamel’s headwear – a black hat with a white outline, the World Series logo on the front panel and the trophy gracing the back. Again, this was due to the fact that the year prior the Phils received a gorgeous hat after winning the 2007 NL East, and even though I still own both to this day, the 2007 hat is my go-to.
I understand that teams don’t have a say in these situations, and that the leagues want to save money since they have to print two versions of every hat, but the NCAA is a billion dollar organization. I don’t think getting 150 hats printed that are custom to each team would be breaking the bank, and fans will happily wait an extra two days for the retail versions to come on the market.
You may wonder why I care so deeply about hats, and the answer is simple. I’m a fan of the aesthetics of sports, and giving players a hat that looks like something a tee ball team would wear is bizarre to me. Also, I’m a balding 22 year-old so hats are pretty much my future. So, to the league distributing these hats, listen to your demographic: make better looking hats.