Entertainment

Jays’ new U.S. flag cap is a swing and a miss


You’d be better off wearing a baseball glove on your head.

It’s almost Independence Day south of the border. This means Major League Baseball is hawking patriotic merch to fans as the stars and stripes are incorporated on everything from hoodies to polos to vests.

For 29 of the 30 teams, this makes perfect marketing sense. Baseball was once considered America’s national pastime — the current one is political dysfunction — and the Fourth of July is the Aaron Judge of holidays.

It is freakishly big and awesome to behold.

But for the Toronto Blue Jays, MLB’s lonely Canadian team, Independence Day merch makes about as much sense as mustard on ice cream. Sure, you could try it. But it will leave you feeling queasy, which is exactly how I felt this week after seeing a new Jays cap that is the ugly cry of headwear.

I wouldn’t put this on even if it was the only cap available after my hair shot out of my skull in a tragic electrocution. I’ve had workers in my home with rollers and cans of Benjamin Moore, and their insanely streaked and splotched hats were more visually pleasing.

The backlash on social media was faster than a Jordan Romano heater. In addition to the hideous design, fans also wondered why Canada’s only MLB team now had a chapeau emblazoned with Uncle Sam’s stars and stripes.

It’s like seeing the Pepsi logo crudely overlaid on a can of Coke. Those are different cola countries! There’s a reason the Dodgers don’t wear a Maple Leaf on Canada Day.

Given the backlash, there were headlines such as, “Shockingly Ugly U.S. Flag-Inspired Toronto Blue Jays Hat Has Fans Confused and Angry” and “Why Do the Toronto Blues Jays Have an American Flag Hat?”

It seems this bonnet blowback reached the manufacturer. When I checked the Official MLB Shop on Wednesday morning, this $45.99 cap was missing most of the stars. It remains as ugly as a blobfish. I still wouldn’t wear it while cleaning my chimney. But it’s less overtly wrong country.

So you won’t look like you failed Grade 2 geography.

You’ll just look like you suffered a head injury in a paintball game.

OK. Now pretend Charlie Montoyo has left the dugout and is duckwalking toward the column mound. Let’s make a narrative change here.

Forget the American cap, or whatever that red-billed, mutating monstrosity is supposed to be. I have an idea I’d like to share with the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club: How about a special edition Ukraine cap?

I’m picturing blue and gold panels with the Jays logo in black. On the back panel, under the eyelets, there’d be a cursive, “Let’s Go Blue Jays!” and “Glory to Ukraine.” This would be the most meaningful cap in history.

All proceeds would go to humanitarian efforts to help Ukraine as it bravely and valiantly fights back against the barbaric invasion by Russia. With interest in the war waning in the West — it shatters my heart — everyone should be thinking of ways to keep helping. This could be the Jays’ way.

This week, Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov auctioned off his 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. It raised a record-breaking $103.5 million, a massive sum he is donating entirely to help displaced Ukrainian children. That is a philanthropic grand slam. This is me giving Dmitry a standing ovation.

Revenue from a special edition Ukraine Jays cap wouldn’t come close to that. But it would be a beautiful symbolic gesture. Imagine being at the Rogers Centre this summer and seeing Ukraine’s colours on the heads of thousands of cheering fans. I’m getting choked up just thinking about it.

On the MLB Shop, there are more than 100 different Jays caps, including a camo motif for Armed Forces Day and a green and white one for St. Patrick’s Day. There is a Tan Bagheera Cheetah cap and a Cream Meeko Cuffed Knit Hat with Pom. There are more hats than you’d find at a royal wedding.

So why not a Ukraine Jays cap?

I was at a game last week and two dudes in the row in front of my daughters were wearing blue plastic visors I vaguely recall from the ’80s. It did make me think about how hats can get fused with historical context.

Mental Floss once published a story pointing out such examples. These included “Winston Churchill’s Homburg,” “Napoleon’s Bicorne,” “Abraham Lincoln’s Stovepipe,” “Davy Crockett’s Coonskin,” “Jackie Kennedy’s Pillbox” and “Theodore Roosevelt’s Panama.”

A hat, as it turns out, can be an enduring statement.

Is there any statement more important now than supporting Ukraine?

And that’s why I’m calling upon my beloved team to think outside the (batter’s) box and consider commissioning a Ukraine Jays cap. Baseball fans love to put things on their heads. I was invited to another game earlier this month in sweet corporate seats — thank you, Globe and Mail! — and there was a guy in the concession concourse who was crouched down and pouring beer into a tank on the back of his crazy, industrial straw-equipped headgear.

This guy could have gone to the moon and still had a buzz.

Right or wrong, funny or offensive, goofy or serious, our hats send a message to the world our shoelaces never could. And the message of a Ukraine Jays cap would be clear for the ages:

“We stand with you, now and forever.”

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