Monday, July 10, 2006


During my last post, I discussed my hopes for the Cincinnati Reds for this year, and I analyzed their chances for continued success for the remainder of this season. As I re-read that post, I realized that my entry was somewhat deficient in that it failed to mention Brandon Philips, who has been a stellar addition to the team as a second baseman this year.

Philips began the season with the Cleveland Indians. He came to the Reds just after the first week of the season, and I knew very little about him before he arrived in the Queen City. My first impression of him was a negative one. The reason: He wore his baseball cap with the bill pulled slightly to one side. Although he was not wearing the bill straight out to the side--a look that I first saw, to my dismay, being sported by former University of Louisville basketball player Tony Kimbro--it was definitely NOT facing forward. Judging a book by its cover, I quickly decided that there was something not to be liked about Philips.

You see, when it comes to baseball--sports in general really--I am something of a traditionalist. The purpose of a baseball cap, it seems to me, is to sheild the sun from the player's face, a task which is made much more difficult if the cap is not facing forward. I assumed that, as a player who wore his hat in a non-traditional fashion, Philips must be a troublemaker who was trying to draw unwarranted attention to himself. As it turns out, my preconceived notions about him could not have been further from the truth.

After arriving in Cincinnati, Brandon Philips quickly established himself as a player with whom to be reckoned. He immediately had some offensive explosions that were instrumental in helping the Reds to gain key wins shortly after he arrived. He displayed defensive skills that proved that he was a more than adequate second baseman, with a cannon for an arm. Most surprisingly, at least in light of my prior rush to judgment about his character, was the fact that he turned out to be soft-spoken, articulate, and humble.

Perhaps it was a bit harsh of me to judge Philips, before seeing him play, based upon the way that he wore his hat. In the sports world, however, just as in the world at large, first impressions go a long way.

During the NCAA basketball tournament last March, I had a discussion about basketball style with my brother Jonathan, who is a University of Kentucky fan. As you may know--or will quickly discover if you keep reading this blog--I am a very staunch and long-time University of Louisville supporter. (This situation does indeed lead to many friendly family feuds, which will perhaps be the subject of another post in the future.) In any event, as my brother and I were watching the tournament, I noted with disapproval the number of players from other teams who were wearing headbands.

I commented to Jonathan that I respected the fact that neither of our favored teams had any players sporting that look. Presumably, both Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith disallow headbands. I heartily approve of that stance. To me, headbands on basketball players look absolutely ridiculous, and serve no legitimate purpose. (Trust me; As a shaved-head dude, I know this to be true. They are not necessary.) I don't think that anyone other than Wilt Chamberlain should ever wear a headband while playing basketball. It just looks goofy.

In response to my headband rant, Jonathan made an interesting observation, as he very often does. He speculated that, although we both personally disfavor the headband look, we would probably be quick to embrace it if an excellent player for our favorite team were doing marvelous things while sporting it. As I recall, he said something like, "Yeah, but I imagine that if a player for our team were dunking all over the place while wearing a headband, we probably wouldn't mind the look." When I envisioned that scenario, I realized that he was right.

I've realized it again with the emergence of Brandon Philips for the Reds this year. When he performs so well, as he has thus far this season, his nonconforming hat style doesn't seem to matter.

I do not like the look of a sideways hat on a baseball player, and I probably never will. I now know, however, that a player can still be an excellent one even if he displays that style.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with you. As you know, I am somewhat of a traditionalist myself. Hopefully, Brandon will continue to be a good fit for the reds....Reegs

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