Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sports Authoritarianism

Of all my grandfathers’s grandchildren I am the only boy. That makes me his favorite grandson. And it means that when attention is doled out, I always receive something different. For instance, a few years back all the granddaughters received sizable cash gifts. I got his 1986 Jeep Cherokee with wooden side panels and a sticker on the back that alerted police officers that he was a member of their law enforcement fraternity. (Although pulled over several times, I never received a ticket driving that car.)

At some point in the mid-80’s he traveled to Asia and brought back gifts. The girls got fancy umbrellas or something. I got an olive green, brimmed cap with a plastic red star on the front. I loved that hat and wore every moment outside of school. I wore it as bike helmet. It was sweat stained. The cheap stitching rotted until the lining fell out. It was a gloriously ridiculous hat for a 12-year-old to wear.

One summer day, I was wearing it at the local comic book shop when one of the older CBGs who liked to harass the young kids grilled me about the hat’s meaning. It was clear I had no idea. And it was also clear that even after he explained to me what it represented, I still had no idea. What does a pre-teen know of communism and the Vietnam War? (Except it’s where Frank Castle learned his trade. And Iron Man a little bit too. ) But I did know that this guy had a problem with my hat.

Since this guy got off on hassling kids and I didn’t want to be a target, I stopped wearing it to the comic book store. Eventually, I stopped wearing it altogether. And then mom got a hold of the thing and threw it away. So long novelty Chairman Mao Tze Tung Revolution Communist Red Army Cap: size 58cm.

For me, Communism died that day.


Last weekend I went shopping for a new pair of running shoes. This routine outing quickly became a chore since I seemingly have the most common shoe size in the region and all my option were hideous or out of stock. Eventually, I made my way to the Sports Authority on Jeff Davis Highway where I again struck out in the shoe the department. But in the hat department I found this:

Strictly from a marketing point of view, this seems an odd product for Adidas to sell. I get that Soviet nostalgia will manifest itself in a variety of ways. And I get that most people walking by this aisle won’t take a second look. But it can be argued that several million people died under the image on this cap. (To drive the point home, CCCP was printed on the back) The hammer and sickle still represents something powerful to a lot of people so I can see it being used to deliver some artistic message. But from Adidas? At Sports Authority? I’m not seeing how that works.

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