Imagine if you fell in love with someone first and only later learned that person was rich. This is what it’s like to wear a ball cap now that I’ve lost most of my hair. You see a transactional relationship meant to disguise my diminished hairline. I see the latest chapter in a lifelong affair.

To say I wore ball caps back when I had a full head of hair is like when your grandparents would look across a crowded urban setting and tell you how this all used to be farmland. You can’t really see it, but you just have to trust that it’s true. I wore ball caps in Little League but also in high school classrooms and at bars when I was in college and beyond. In my 20s and 30s, my unique brand of iconoclasm was to wear golf-themed ball caps to hockey rinks and hockey-themed ball caps on the golf course. My favorite, my golden boy, was a “USA Hockey” hat that began a rich royal blue but was swiftly faded to gray by sun and sweat. I recall covering the 2004 Ryder Cup as an adamantly objective journalist, then receiving sneering looks from the European press who thought I was affirming my allegiance. “No, this is a hockey hat,” I tried to explain but realized it was pointless. I chose a different hat for the rest of the week.

All those years, I wore a ball cap not out of necessity but as a form of self-expression. I promise that is true now, although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit its one additional function in recent years. Without it, I get a nasty sunburn on the top of my head.

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