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Homeward Bound: The Incredible Minnesota Hat Journey

A tale of wind, good people, and a well worn hat.

Original image: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

This is a story of loss.

This is a story of internet camaraderie.

This is a story of triumphing over adversity and weather and forgetting to put your hat on backwards in gale force winds.

This is a story so inspiring that Disney has already optioned the rights so they can turn it into a box office smash that would rival Treasure Planet. Don’t believe me? There’s already a trailer!

I know, you can’t wait to spend $17 to watch it in 3D can you? Before you do, I want to tell you the full story. Because the true joy of this tale is HOW my hat came home. Not via a magic wormhole like Disney is gonna say. But through simple kindness, good timing, and Twitter.

Behind the scenes of HWB-TIHJ

Saturday’s game against Purdue was a tough one for me. Not because Minnesota lost, but because I lost my favorite Gophers hat (I have priorities people). I can hear you judging me already: “HOW DO YOU LOSE A HAT? YOU PUT IT ON YOUR HEAD AND YOU KEEP IT THERE UNTIL YOU TAKE IT OFF IN A PLACE THAT IS SAFE.” And you’d be right dear reader. Here is the inspiring story of how I lost my hat due to poor planning but had it returned to me through the magic of the internet.

It all started with a typical Indiana thunderstorm. The kind that shows up out of nowhere and rolls through with speed and ferocity.

For those who weren’t watching this all time legendary matchup, the storm showed up at the end of the third quarter/beginning of the 4th quarter. And being a photography obsessed individual, I wanted to get a cool shot of the sunset combined with the incoming storm plus Ross-Ade under the lights. There was no time to waste, so to the top of the North Endzone stands I went, in search of perfection. The result was exactly what I hoped for:

Then, tragedy struck.

A gust of win stole my favorite Gophers hat and sent it flying over the back of the stadium! I was beside myself. At first it looked like it might land in the concourse, but instead it landed on top of the concession stands behind the North Endzone. All hope was lost. Immediately after this crushing blow, Purdue also kicked a field goal to take the lead. I could not be bothered to think about this minor detail given the loss of my friend. Then the rains came down, the game was interrupted, and we all ran to Mackey Arena to find shelter from the storm.

In that moment of darkness there was only one thing I could do. I took to Twitter to share my despair.

This tweet was retweeted by Hammer & Rails and I received a number of quality replies from Purdue fans:

The levity helped, but I was still down about having to contemplate getting a new hat. (SIDE NOTE: Part of this is because there are not NEARLY enough quality gold Minnesota hats out there). And then came a moment of college football kindness that would change my week.

Ross is a Purdue sophomore and a cool dude. We met up outside Mackey to talk while we waited for the rain to stop and he let me know that he works on the Ross-Ade cleanup crew and would be happy to try and locate my lost lid.

I appreciated the gesture a great deal, though I expected little to come of it. Not because I thought Ross wouldn’t look (I knew he would) but because how often does something like this really work out? Plus, I figured no one would give him the ladder he needed for insurance reasons (risk management folks gonna risk management).

On Sunday he let me know that he wasn’t able to get access to a ladder, but that he emailed the stadium ops people about it and would update me if he heard anything. Once again, his efforts made my day and once again, I assumed that my hat was gone because what stadium ops person is going to worry about a Minnesota hat on top of a concession stand?

I went on with my week. I recounted the story with a smile to my friends in Cincy. But at no point did I really think I’d see my hat again.

/inspiring Disney score begins to play

I underestimated the power of nice people going out of there way to help out a random fan. Because yesterday I received the following DM on Twitter:

MY HAT WAS BACK! Soaking wet, a little dirty, but BACK! There is no little kid hugging a golden retriever movie moment that could ever make me feel as happy as the surprise of my hat actually getting found.

The Disney message at the heart of it all

This is why I don’t ever want to let myself get too worked up over a football game. I had fun despite the frustrating loss on Saturday because of good people. I met good people at the tailgate lot, I met good people at the game, and I met GREAT people on Twitter and at Mackey Arena when I thought my hat was gone forever.

Having fun and being a good person, that’s what life is about friends!