Mar 26, 2023

Let’s put a lid on downer talk for a moment

Sure, sure, we could follow a month gallivanting around Europe, far from the weary woeful world of the White Sox, by joining the crowd jumping on the incompetence of the Sox organization, the terrible level of play, the abominably awful division they play in, and all that stuff, which will undoubtedly happen in due course. But first, a break, topping off a new month with a tally of toppers.

Permit an explanation.

My wife and I spent most of May jaunting around Europe, first a week in Spain, then a week on a big sailing ship in the Mediterranean, and then a week in Ireland. It was our first trip out of the U.S. since Covid hit, so naturally I turned my full attention to what other people were wearing atop their heads. Specifically, I was checking out what baseball caps are to be seen in Europe these days.

I was only counting lids and other gear from major league ball teams, not from other sports, but I couldn't help but notice that the Bulls were nowhere to be seen until a middle-aged man entered a bus station in Belfast wearing a Bulls jacket and a Raiders hat, both no doubt left over from days of yore. Bulls jerseys and hats used to the ubiquitous around the globe. They were common from East Asia to Western Europe and all points in between, even for years after Michael Jordan retired and even in cities like Barcelona and Buenos Aires where there were big time soccer stars to idolize. Even MJ has a shelf life, though, and the sell-by date has now been passed.

There was absolutely no surprise in which team's toppers topped the list. I’ve never counted hats before, but there's no question the Yankees have always appeared to dominate headgear overseas. Statistical analysis this time out proved the accuracy of the impression. The most hated team in the country absolutely dominated in both Spain and Ireland.

On the trip, I counted 15 Yankees hats being worn, along with one jacket and even a backpack, of all things. That's 17 impressions in all, more than triple those of any other team, and spread evenly among places we visited. It is a sad, sad thing, indeed.

When it came to hats in Europe, the White Sox were as White Sox-y as could be — strong early promise, then a total fade.

When the counting was still very low and the Yankees were only up to four, the Sox made a strong showing, tied with the Dodgers at two. One was worn by a young East Asian man strolling our neighborhood in Madrid, who, when my wife said, "Go Sox!" was totally oblivious. The other, a big surprise, donned the téte of a waiter at a waterfront bistro in Corsica.

Things were looking good! Then things stopped. Dead.

The Dodgers moved up to five, ending in a tie with the Red Sox, who had been shut out in Spain but hit big in Ireland. Guess it's the Boston Irish thing.

But a very surprising latecomer made a big rush at the end. The Royals ended up with four, all in Northern Ireland. Either we ran into a tour group from western Missouri with no sense of baseball performance, or it was a political phenomenon. Many of the Northern Irish are more British than the Brits themselves, flying union jacks by the thousands, and we were there not long after the coronation of King Charles — KC with a crown, just like the hats, and he's definitely a fan of Royals.

A few other teams chalked up one lid — Brewers, Padres, Mariners, Astros and Braves, so the White Sox did have some they hung on to defeat, though they probably couldn't beat any of those in an actual game.

Near the end of our trip, we were at a place called The Giant's Causeway — do drop by if you happen to be in the neighborhood, because it's really interesting — when a young woman came by and, noticing my hat, yelled, "Go White Sox!" She was wearing a Celtics cap, so I politely yelled back, "And Red Sox, too!"

Then came the downer. She turned, laughed, and said, "Actually, I’m a Cubs fan."

Darn near ruined the vacation.