Monday, February 15, 2010

Hatman Returns

One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a hat given to me by my sister and my brother-in-law. It’s the kind of hat that looks like you ought to be wearing it while lounging on the beach with an ugly Hawaiian shirt and a strong tropical drink. A friend of mine used to call a hat like this a “go to hell” hat. I’m really not sure why. Maybe it’s because when you wear this kind of hat you are basically telling the fashionistas to go to hell.

Anyway, the last time I saw a chapeau so grand it was a decade ago at a University of Louisville football game. At first, the wearer slipped in relatively unnoticed. That didn’t last long. The hat quickly garnered my attention and admiration. From then on, every time hatman slipped up and down the aisle – whether going to the bathroom or the beer line – I shouted, “Nice hat.”

Hatman originally accepted my compliment begrudgingly. Believe it or not, he might have actually thought I was making fun of him. I guess it eventually became second nature to him though. After all, he never stopped wearing the hat. In fact, I’d like to think he actually started to have some fun with it, at least until the incident.

For better or worse, “nice hat” was gaining momentum. Originally a chorus of only one, it was building to a regal refrain as others joined in, broadcasting hatman’s every movement. It seemed mostly good-spirited until the last game of the year. As I recall, Louisville was taking a horrendous beating. Hatman was returning from his regular bathroom/beer run. For some inexplicable reason, the crowd’s pent-up frustration was seemingly unleashed at that very moment onto the hat. Vulgarities were hurled. Debris was tossed. It was uglier than a Hawaiian shirt.

In the aftermath of such a riotous display, the hat was, unfortunately, never seen again. That is until it – or a damn-fine facsimile -- showed up 10 years later in my gift box on Christmas Eve. This was kismet. I proudly put the hat on. My sister snapped a photo. I couldn’t wait to load the photo to Facebook. Before 24 hours had passed, I heard from my good friend, Kenny, who has shared U of L football tickets with me since the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

He had only two words for such an auspicious occasion: “Nice hat.”

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