Thursday, October 17, 2013

Batmen: Bearded Origins

Men fascinate me. The whole testosterone/manliness/hair thing is awkward. Don't get me wrong, I love growing out my hair and styling bangs and stuff...but the whole beard thing is weird. We women don't grow out our leg hair as a means of rallying. I'm just saying.

Beards. They come in many shapes and sizes. They come in different colors, lengths, thickness, and volumes. In olden days they were a sign of royalty, wisdom, virility, and also a sign that the man was hitched. Today, they can either be a sign of laziness, a need to keep the face warm in winter, and a new one: supporting a team. Ten years ago, it was a custom to have a team dye their hair to rally their team to the playoffs. It wouldn't be surprising to see key players on a team with their hair dyed blonde in support. Let's get real, here--that was really cheesy and was ten years too late considering the fact that we had the hair-frosting trends set in the 1990's. Today, the easiest (and healthiest) way to represent a team is to, well... "let their hair down."

The only thing I knew before this trend of any man supporting a cause by trimming their facial hair is for "Mo-vember," done every November to promote awareness for prostate cancer. In the sports world, athletes and male fans have insisted on going the whole nine and growing out a ZZ Top-styled beard in lieu of their favorite team.

For example, as you can see here, Dodgers pitcher Brian Wilson is rocking the Captain Lou Albano look. If you don't know who Capt. Lou is--which honestly determines how old you are--you can call it the Michael Gambon's Dumbledore look.
How does he sleep with that thing?
If you've been following the MLB Postseason, you can see that Brian Wilson isn't the only one sporting a beard. In fact, more than half of the Boston Red Sox are sporting a beard. It has gone so crazy that some of them have been growing and grooming them since the beginning of the season and they've created nicknames for some of the beards, like "The Serial Killer."

Nicknames. For their beards. Like they were their own children or something.

Moving right along...
The team that plays together, stays together. With that said, is this phenomenon another sign of superstition, or is it really a beckoning call to summon every defense and bulldoze the opposition?

Three years ago, I wrote about how superstitions are the religious glue that make the sports realm a tangible universe that fans and media outlets can portal themselves to. Different mantras and rituals exist in this mystical land. Heck, Bud Light had a whole advertising campaign built around it. Beard-growing has slowly, but surely become a growing (no pun intended) trend in sports over the past year or two. In fact, you could start to argue that it began a little earlier than that with numerous NFL players growing out their locks a-la Clay Matthews or Troy Polamalu. However, the beard sported by Brian Wilson himself during the San Francisco Giants' 2010 MLB Postseason run brought the "fear the beard" phase to the forefront, leading other fans and baseball players to sport the same look. While some considered it a "fashion statement," it almost had the same significance as a rally hat in the ninth inning or sporting a scarf on match day in soccer, but all day, every day.

Superstitions aside, this seems more like a unifying practice instead of a "if I shave, they're going to lose," kind of deal. Doing a collective action such as growing out beards shows a sense of unity among teammates and the fans. This is a very good sign. It reflects team chemistry and their passion to keep going. After all, if the fans are following suit, and you'd wanna help them out too, right?  Boston, normally called "Beantown" throughout the nation, has been referring to themselves as "Beardtown" throughout the Red Sox' playoff run. Fans are showing up to the stadiums wearing Father Time hairy beards and Santa beards in support, and with the weather getting cold, it's certainly keeping those fans warm with passion and excitement. [Good thing Halloween is coming up, eh?] Trends may come and go, but if there's any way to win over new audiences and grab more love and attention, bonding together and looking like a uniformed team is the way to go. Beards are a bit strange, I'll admit that, but if you've been watching the Red Sox in the playoffs, you can see a lot of the die-hard fans cheering on their team in the same way the team is displaying themselves on the field. In the case of rally towels...well, they're an added boost of momentum.

Can I grow a beard? No. However, I personally know people who have for different reasons involving sports. While it might seem strange to me, there are bound to be other people out there like you that do the same thing for the same cause in other ways. Thing is, you just have to make sure it doesn't get out of hand and your boss or your wife comes in with shears. It's a physical badge of fandom, and men (and women with fake ones) wear them loud and proud if their team is relying on their momentum.

I'm just going to feel bad for you if your team loses and then you have to shave the whole thing off. That is going to take a while, and it's probably going to hurt.

(Sucks to be you...)