By R.L. Bynum
My Chicago Cubs cap got me some national television time and eventually got praise from Brady Manek. This was one of the craziest aspects of my long March experience that put me on the road for 14 of 27 days.
It started innocently enough.
The television lights are so bright in these arenas that they’re hard on the eyes. Instead of constantly putting my hand above my eyes, I wore my Cubs cap. On the top photo, you can see how shaded it is below the bill.
Very few media members wear caps on press row but it got me some unexpected attention in Brooklyn during the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. That was the day that Major League Baseball and the players association reached a labor agreement.
Wearing the cap led a New York City police officer to stop me under the stands just to have a conversation about how he was glad that the labor agreement was reached. He was immediately more confident in his team than I am in mine. He was already assuming a World Series title for his New York Yankees.
The Tar Heels were blowing out Virginia and the announcers were talking about the labor agreement. The producers, looking for a visual to go with the conversation, went to a shot of me because I was wearing the Cubs cap (top photo).
They stayed on the shot for an astounding 16 seconds. Sixteen seconds? That’s an eternity in television.
I had no idea and was already working on my game story when I suddenly got lots of messages on my phone telling me that I was on ESPN’s broadcast.
The Cubs cap made subsequent appearances at the Eastern Regional in Philadelphia and at the Final Four in New Orleans because I was sitting behind the TV crew for certain games at both sites. Sadly, it was my backup Cubs cap in New Orleans because I left the original cap in the interview room at the Philadelphia arena.
The national-TV exposure was nice but the most surprising recognition of the Cubs cap came in the bowels of the Superdome on Saturday night after the Tar Heels’ thrilling, historic victory in the second national semifinal over Duke.
I was in a scrum in the hallway outside of UNC’s dressing room around Manek, who also is a Cubs fan. He was asked a question about a key blocked shot he made against the Blue Devils. In the middle of the answer, he recognized the cap.
“It’s funny you should ask that,” Manek said. “People don’t know that about me, but I can jump. I’ve done it this year. I have lots of dunks — I like that Cubs hat — and, you know, people underestimate me my whole life and underestimated the team …”
He was talking about his jumping ability, jumped to recognition of my cap, then went right back to his answer.
I’m not too confident in my Cubs on this Opening Day since they are without Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez, among others. But at least I represented for the team in several March venues!