This is not about sports!

There are scads of volunteers all over Turin and the mountains, wearing matching Torino2006 uniforms that include matching red boots and matching red, yellow and gray jackets. The boots are very fashionable. The volunteers are very helpful.

Some of the older male volunteers wear stylish felt hats with a feather sticking out of them. I've long wondered what these hats meant. Today, I saw an older gentleman with one such hat as my bus pulled into the media center parking lot, so I tried to approach him. This was against the rules, since he was down on the road leading into the parking lot, which is a pedestrian-free zone. A female volunteer started reprimanding me.

Anyhow, after six days of curiosity, for some reason I suddenly decided I wasn't going into the media center today without figuring this out. I asked several volunteers who didn't understand me. I flapped my arms to signify wings, then tried to make the transition from wings to feathers while pointing at my head. No luck. Finally, at the metal detectors, I ran into 22-year-old Giorgio De Cicco, a Torino2006 volunteer and aspiring journalist who spoke English very well. He explained.

The hats are worn by veterans of the Alpini, a mountain-based unit of the Italian infantry. Current members of this unit, some of whom are providing security at these Games, still wear the hats, which I hadn't noticed. Naturally, within moments, I was posing for photos wearing one of these hats. Read a bit about the Alpini and their hats here, at the bottom of the page. Or scroll to the bottom of this link, which notes that "The Alpini keep their hats after they are discharged and even today, veterans might be seen wearing their hats at reunions or on commemoration days."

Or at the Olympics.

The San Francisco Chronicle, while covering the Pope's funeral, called the Alpini "specially trained mountain police who come from the north and wear felt hats topped off with a single feather."

Giorgio said the hats were in use as early as World War I, when the Alpini were involved in combat with the Austrians in the Dolomites, between Trento and Innsbruck. Please correct me if this is wrong. He didn't know if the hats had a particular name.

Since I have so many readers from this area, I trust them to write in with a fuller explanation. Like I said, the hats are stylish, but I felt a bit silly posing in one. Classic American tourist move. Still, the photo will probably run in tomorrow's Washington Post.

As I was leaving the metal detectors, after a long conversation with several volunteers and several Alpini and after many, many pin giveaways, Giorgio told me, "Your face is similar of Moby." I have heard this before. Two cruel editors at The Post called me "Moby" behind my back for my first year at the paper. And when I went to Burlington, Vermont to write a story comparing Vermont Coach Mike Lonergan and Bowie State Coach Luke D'Alessio, the guys on the team were calling me "Moby" within about two hours. Here are some Moby photos. I recommend his cafe, Teany, in New York's Lower East Side.

Incidentally, for Vermont to be 6-6 in the America East, considering its shocking inexperience, is a great accomplishment for Mike Lonergan. Seriously. Watch out for this guy.

By Dan Steinberg |  February 15, 2006; 10:57 AM ET
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