My Black Baseball Hat
Baseball hats cover more than just a black eye.
My favourite 49ers hat used to be a blacked-out logo on a dark canvas of fabric. Most people didn't even notice the “SF” embroidered smack dab in the middle.
The odd dude would come a little closer—pre-COVID, of course—and question my knowledge.
“San Francisco, huh? Name me five players on the roster then, gorgeous,” they all mumble some version of this, flashing a condescending smile.
It throws them off when I simply respond, “Which season?”
I bought that baseball hat at the Lids in the San Francisco Premium Outlets before my first game at Candlestick Park back in 2013. I loved the way I felt in that hat. I looked sporty and cute; I felt confident, and my boyfriend at the time loved how I looked in Niners gear.
They were our team.
I wore that hat loud and proud to the game, black tape on both cheeks under my eyes. Well, it was eyeliner, actually. But no one could tell the difference. That hat covered all of my flaws.
The 49ers lost 27-7 to the Colts, so thankfully, the hat covered my tear-filled eyes, too.
My boyfriend and I had gone on a two-game tilt in the States. Since it was our first football trip outside of Seattle, we embraced the Stick, despite the loss. Luckily, we had TNF against the Rams in St. Louis on the horizon.
Pretty dope, eh?
Yes, we took an elevator up the arch. I do not recommend doing the same if you’re terrified of heights like I am. The Golden Arches give me PTSD.
Back to the hat and the Rams game.
“Can you name me five players on the team?” one St. Louis fan barked at me as I waited in line for a $20 USD beer.
“Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, NaVorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis,” I cooed.
“Those are my guys.”
I watched Kaep throw for 167 yards and two touchdowns, while Frank the Tank rushed for 153 yards and a TD of his own. Davis scooped one up, too.
Sadly, I didn’t get to really witness the win.
Like one of the many injured players on today’s 49ers roster, I was completely beaten down in 2013.
During the Rams game, I had woken up from a self-induced blackout, confused and lost in the bathroom of the Dome after a silly fight. I must have been asleep in the stall, because when I wandered back to my seat, the game was over. Bleachers were completely empty. The two Thursday Night Football broadcasters were belting from their makeshift anchor desk on the sideline. But it was very lonely otherwise. My boyfriend was gone and my cellphone battery had died. I was stranded in St. Louis and had no clue how to get back to the hotel.
I pulled my black hat down over my watery eyes. Mascara streaming down; one contact lens missing.
After stumbling back to the hotel, I walked into an empty room. I was alone until I wasn’t. The door swung open, but I was half asleep. He poured a bottle of water on my face, just enough to drown my breath for a few terrifying seconds. I woke up with red eyes and he was angrier than ever. He smashed my bronzer on the ground; his screams echoed enough to summon security. Of course, he sweet-talked them away.
I snuck into the bathroom and locked myself in.
The tiles were cold granite with beautiful marble markings. As he banged on the door, begging for me to let him in, I watched my tears dance on the smooth floor. Each pound on the wood a dagger in my heart.
I remember wrapping myself in eggshell white towels and thinking they had zero chance against my mascara. I’ll be okay. Then I thought about my favourite player, Patrick Willis.
Willis had been through an abusive relationship, too. But somehow, he used his struggles as fuel to never give up on his dream. I rarely told people about what I was going through, yet I felt like Willis was holding my hand during all of my tussles. I felt like I knew him. And if he could make it to the NFL, I could surely make it out of that bathroom.
Don't worry, I did. My boyfriend and I were kicked out of the hotel after security showed up for the second time that night. Thank you to our next-door neighbours, sincerely, for doing so. We continued our argument on the curb outside. I messaged my mom to book me a flight home. And then a stranger approached us and offered his extra suite in the hotel beside ours. To this day, I still think he was a guardian angel sent down to temporarily mend our toxic relationship.
He bought us breakfast the next morning and gave us a free counselling session, too. And then we were on our way, mental bandages and all.
Abuse is heavy. I get that it’s a bit taboo to talk about. I understand that it makes people uncomfortable. However, like my favourite player circa 2012 and beyond, I used every little heartache and scar as fodder for a ferocious fire growing inside of me.
Sometimes, the deepest pain can create an unexplainable miracle.
I hid my bruises and sadness for a long time, forever holding onto the team—the team oblivious to how much I needed them. I veiled behind that black hat, only to be ridiculed by men who don’t realize how harmful and abusive the phrase “name me five players on the roster” truly can be; how much those words take me back to a time where I was hiding every bit of me from the world.
Maybe that’s the most heartbreaking part. That a team, who gave me so much joy and pride, was in turn my shield from how broken I really was.
I still have that black hat. It’s tattered and worn out, a little like the 49ers current roster. And don’t worry, Bob, I can name you more than just five players on this squad.
But today, you’re only getting four names. Because these are the names of our future warriors—the ones who are stuck in that bathroom, just like I was seven years ago
Firstly, Jimmy Garoppolo. Most of us don’t deserve him.
Too many “fans” uttered horrible things about the 49ers QB1 after watching him limp along the gridiron. The Jimmy haters not so silently rooted for Nick Mullens to take over. They’ve ripped on Jimmy for his accuracy, his timing and his choice in women. He takes the brunt of the mental abuse. And believe me, that’s the worst kind to overcome. No offence to Mullens, who I’m sure will be huge for the offense, with Jimmy on the IR.
Although, I still think Kaepernick deserves a shot with the 49ers again. Twitter, please don’t hate me for voicing my opinion.
Garoppolo was nearly perfect in yesterday’s game, going 14 for 16 with 131 yards and two touchdowns. His mentals were calm. He was Jimmy Cool, just like Joe Montana in Week 2 of the 1981 season against the Bears. Garoppolo exuded confidence.
But that pesky IR bug—or horribly maintained turf—didn’t relent. He’s out for 4-6 weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
Raheem Mostert suffered a mild MCL sprain, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Join the “Knee Injury” club, am I right? Prior to the IR list, Mostert topped his TD from last week with an 80-yarder. He surfed all the way down the field for the score. And it was a total 10.
He’ll be back and faster than ever, though. Keep this receipt.
Now, my boy Solly. 49ers defensive tackle Solomon Thomas most likely tore his ACL. He’ll be missed dearly, but that dude is a fighter. Solly will hop in the ring for round two. And when he’s back and healthy, his next move will be a TKO—just wait.
Lastly, Mr. Smaller Bears himself.
Nick Bosa’s face broke my heart into pieces twice in yesterday’s massacre. First when he was still being tended to on the field after that God-awful leg bend. He tilted his head upwards in agony, resembling a tiger at the zoo longing to get back into the wild. I felt his season end. And when he disappeared into that dark tunnel, Bosa felt it, too.
Cue the second heartbreak.
I wish I could share my dirty old ball cap with each of these players. I wish I could hide their pain and wrap them in white hotel towels.
But then I think back to Willis.
One of the keys to success in this life is acceptance. Sometimes horrible things happen and, rather than embrace our flaws, we mask them. We hide our bruises with a silly hat, that ironically enough is a walking invitation for football banter and a traumatic trigger.
Rather than hide behind a wall, it’s time to accept the fate of our roster.
There’s this quote from Grey’s Anatomy that I used to read whenever I needed some clarity in my own life:
“Maybe we like the pain. Maybe we’re wired that way. Because without it, I don’t know, maybe we just wouldn’t feel real. What’s that saying? Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer? Because it feels so good when I stop.”
Nobody wants to be in pain. But it’s within that pain that we find the strength to truly grow and tap into the fire within us. Regular folks will feel the burning sensation inside; yet, they’ll never act on it. They simply don’t know how. Nothing has pushed them to go deeper than the surface.
The warriors of this world, well, those ones have it figured out.
They don’t hide behind a black baseball hat with a logo of what once was. They own every bit of who they are, battle scars and mental band-aids included.
I took off that cap when I started writing for Sports Illustrated All49ers because I believe I’m meant to be here, despite every obstacle and adversity thrown my way.
Compare that to the 49ers. They’ll have a tough path to the top, no doubt. But to quote The Lumineers, isn’t it “better to feel pain, than nothing at all?” Eventually the hammer is going to stop and when it does, winning the Super Bowl will taste so much sweeter.
And hopefully, I’ll buy myself a new black hat—one that’s made for a warrior.