Sports and facial hair share a long history. From King Kelly to Rollie Fingers to Johnny Damon, some athletes are defined by their facial hair. Some teams take firm stands against facial hair: The New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds insist their players remain clean shaven. Other clubs encourage facial hair growth as a way of promoting solidarity and team spirit. Scott Spiezio of the St. Louis Cardinals once went so far as to dye his goatee red. But flagrant facial hair is not limited to athletes. Many fans have found that facial hair is as useful in making a statement from the stands as it is in making one from the dugout.
The fan beard was spawned from the playoff beard – a tradition that originated when many NHL players wouldn’t shave until their team had been eliminated from the playoffs. Like fantasy sports leagues and collecting memorabilia, not shaving is a way for the common fan to feel closer to his sports idol. Combine die-hard fans with the ability to grow facial hair and you get a powder keg of possibility just waiting to explode into a number of oddball promises and rash undertakings.
In July 2004, with the Seattle Mariners mired in one of their worst seasons in years, I boldly declared that I would not shave until the team became winners again. Had I remained true to my promise and not given up seven days (and almost as many losses) later, I would not have touched a razor until June 2007.
While desperate times call for desperate measures, I caution fans against growing beards in protest of losing records. Pogonological promises are dangerous and can call into question a fan’s sanity (or even worse, dedication). Because the growing of fan-beards is such an intricate practice, it must be highly regulated. I have drawn up a some preliminary guidelines for people who would like to take their team spirit to the next level.
Rule 1: The growing of the fan-beard shall be reserved for periods during which a team is streaking toward the playoffs or championship and not to be used during desperate stretches or losing seasons. If the party in question decides to grow a beard out of frustration with a losing team, he shall be deemed pathetic, not only for being a fan of said team but also for having an unsightly beard.
Rule 2: A literal and figurative “cutoff” date shall be set when the fan-beard grower commences his beard, as not to obligate the party in question to grow his beard beyond the point of reason or general sanity.
Rule 3a: Fans declaring they will not shave “until the Cubs win the World Series” will be found in violation of Rule 2, yet will not be penalized. Rather, they will be transported to the nearest hospital and examined for mental infirmity.
Rule 3b: After undergoing psychoanalysis and other intensive treatments (including a Clockwork Orange-style exposure to looped footage of Steve Bartman in Game 6), the aforementioned Cubs fan shall be discharged and advised instead to grow out his beard until Lou Piniella receives his first ejection, and/or a Cubs player is found with a corked bat. If said events occur simultaneously, the fan beard shall be left untouched, but all cranial growth shall henceforth be terminated.
Rule 4: Any mocking comments or insults directed toward the grower of the fan beard by non-fans or fans of rival teams are to be quantified inversely directly proportionally to the true dedication and passion for the team embodied by the grower. (Derived from Kindergarten Rulebook 12th Ed., Rule 21d. – “I am rubber, you are glue: Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.”)
Rule 5: Any work-related problems that arise from the fan beard (fines, loss of promotion, firings et al.) shall be compensated for by the beard grower’s friends in the form of beer, stadium concessions, or any combination thereof. General praise of the grower’s awesomeness is also accepted, but shall not take the place of any of the aforementioned amenities.
Rule 6a: In the case of championships won, the grower reserves the right to attribute any and all of the team’s success to his beard. After the celebration has ended and the grower cleanses himself of all traces of beer and/or cheesy poofs, the fan beard shall be shorn and its pieces placed in ornate reliquaries and distributed to the four corners of the land.
Rule 6b: In the case of championships lost or playoff elimination, the grower is absolved of any and all possible blame. He will dutifully shave his beard, but without the use of water or shaving cream, using instead his own tears of sorrow.