In August of 2003 I was pulling a U-Haul full of my soon-to-be wife’s belongings across America. We started as a perfect match, apparently, two people who are always looking to do things the hard way. Her and her things were in Los Angeles and we were scheduled to wed on the Maine coastline. We didn’t even get to New Mexico when she had all she could take of the road trip. I, being a man, am driven by an innate need to ‘make good time’ in driving situations. It can’t be explained or always justified, but if you are a guy reading this you probably know what I’m talking about. It is what it is.
However, I happen to suffer some internal turmoil in those situations being drawn by what, to me, is the ‘romance’ of the road(side): walnut bowls in Missouri, Huddle & Waffle Houses in the South (along with pecans, peaches, and $5 t-shirts), FIREWORKS!, South of the Border, truck stops, Stuckeys, gas stations, diners, overlooks, and in the southwest; trading posts, turquoise, Navajo bread and Kachina dolls. So, when Kristina couldn’t take another minute in the car and there was a trading post in sight, it was “forget about making good time” and I’d pull right in.
Browsing around in the first trading post we visited, a row of royal blue, velvety cowboy hats caught my eye. It was one of those things that rarely if ever happens to me, but I thought to myself, “I need one of those.” I was suspicious that it might be the monotony of the road or something else, but I had a strong urge to get one of those royal blue hats. I started to think of a royal blue cowboy hat stowed away somewhere and the possibility that what felt so necessary at the moment, would seem pretty dumb when I put my hat on to walk out the door of my Ithaca, NY apartment. So I exercised my better judgment and pushed my desire for the blue hat into a pit inside my stomach never to be let out (hat tip to Hank Hill).
A few hours later, we hit another trading post and while I was poking around, I saw another row of velvety, royal blue cowboy hats. I took it as a sign. I needed one of these. So I mustered up the courage to ask my betrothed what she thought about it. I was greeted with a tired look of mild shock and overwhelming disappointment. She spoke a polite, diplomatic, thoughtful version of what her look communicated, and I reflexively tried to make my case why a velvety, royal blue cowboy hat was a good thing for me to have. The compromise? She said that if I could get my weight to under 200 lbs, she’d be all in on the hat. I thought that was a great deal.
Context: I hadn’t weighed less than 200 lbs since I represented the US Air Force in the All-Military wrestling championships in Quantico, Virginia in 1990. Out of wrestling season, I normally weighed more than 200 pounds in college. I did have a year in the mid-1980s where I spent a good deal of my winter bicycling along the traffic filled roads of Florida, walking the Gulf Coast beaches, swimming in the surf, and hiking and camping in the Ocala National Forest. At the end of all that, I was well under 200 but that didn’t last. When I was in the Air Force in my 20s, my weight limit (to stay off the fat boy program) was a strict 205 lbs and I had to watch myself when weigh-ins came around. I also spent a half year in sub-Saharan Africa in 2000 where I felt like I turned in to a stick carrying my belongings all over the place, but when I came home and hopped on a scale I was 203-204 lbs.
For the most part betweem 1993-2003 (the time of the velvety royal blue hat), I weighed somewhere between 220-225 lbs. Fast forward 11 ½ years later to fall of 2014 through to today. I lost 40+ pounds since November. I’m under 200 for the first time since that wrestling event. I want my hat. But, short of getting in the car and driving out to New Mexico, I don’t know where I can find one. Internet hasn’t helped.
So, 40 pounds of weight loss is a pretty big deal, I guess. How did it happen? The real story is kind of dull. It involves signing up with Dr. Douglas Farrago’s direct primary care practice when it opened in October and the results of a blood test. I pretty much did everything the guy says in this video + Bulletproof Coffee every day (yes, the recent celebrity fad). But I’d rather share a more compelling story that’s not entirely true, but inspired by true events.
In my role as a sport management professor, I was engaged in a discussion one day with students about how the business has developed over the decades. If you go back and watch a summer afternoon Major League baseball game from the 1970s, you will likely see a variety of shirt sleeves and t-shirts in the crowd and a fair amount of men with bare, hairy chests. Today at almost every professional sporting event, the majority of the crowd is decked out in the home team’s licensed apparel.
The conversation came around to my personal relationship with licensed apparel and, maybe with the exception of caps on clearance, I really don’t see any personal value in it. A student asked me if I were to buy a replica jersey, which one would it be. I thought long and hard. Players switch teams, teams switch directions, athletes get involved in scandals and you can often find their dated jerseys at TJ Maxx for $12. I just never felt the urge to run around looking like a player ready for the game, but wearing jeans. But I thought about it and thought about what athlete or moment I’d feel good about representing with my choice of apparel, and I kept coming back to this Eric Cantona goal (or at 4:37 on this video. It’s the last one of the compilation if you like watching great goals).
The goal, the reaction. It’s the best, it happened a long time ago and it’s never going to change. Eric Cantona the soccer player, is what he is and the controversies have faded with time. To see him do that in the midst of a personal and media firestorm, that’s the best. I love it. That’s the replica jersey I decided I would wear. One like he’s wearing for that goal. The red, Manchester United jersey with the collar and the Sharp logo from the 1990s.
When I got home that night, I started to wonder if I could find one of those jerseys. I searched all over the internet and found one option, one size, one left. It was from a company in Taiwan and the price (less than $20) had me suspicious regarding its authenticity. One left at that price? I ordered it. The picture looked great. A few weeks later it arrived with a tag indicating authenticity, so it must be so, right? Tried it right on and felt like this with more skin showing, especially coming out of the bottom of the shirt:
So, if I wanted to wear my Cantona replica jersey, the only size available, I had some work to do. After months and months of disciplined effort, it easily fits and I can wear it. I’m not sure where or why I ever would, but I could. And I’ve even earned my velvet royal blue cowboy hat today, if I can find one. So if you see one let me know! I’m under 200 lbs!