My Awful Beard and Other Superstitions
Look at it. It is awful. I am embarrassed to purport to have gone through puberty sporting such a poor performance in the facial hair growth department. That is a month’s work there. And the sad thing is, this year’s effort, patchy and thin, is still somehow better than past years.
In 2012, my friends Matt and Zach decided we were going to grow playoff beards. Just a silly thing to rally around our respective teams for the postseason (Matt and I are Rangers fans, Zach a Bruins fan. Nobody’s perfect). We were in the same gym class, so every couple of days, we would check in on each other’s progress. It was fun.
That year, the Bruins were eliminated in the first round in seven games. Zach still had a beard that would make a lumberjack jealous. He has since grown a beard that is befitting of Duck Dynasty or ZZ Top.
The Rangers went all the way to game six of the Eastern Conference finals. Matt grew a beard that quite literally covered his entire face. Pretty sure even his forehead. Though, now that I really think about it, Matt has had a full mustache since sixth grade, so this was not really a shock.
I, on the other hand, had a few billygoat hairs on my chin and, if you looked really closely, you could see the vague semblance of a mustache.
This year, at least, I have hairs on my jaw and crawling down my neck. Progress! But, all the same, it looks terrible.
Why do it then? As my mother frequently likes to point out as she begs me to shave, it has no impact on the game whatsoever. To the naive, yes, it has no impact. But I have my reasons. (Side note: I’m so sorry I called you naive in a public forum, Mom).
First and foremost, I am a pretty superstitious guy. I hate to admit it, because, let’s face it, superstitions in general are pretty juvenile, but it’s true. I listen to the same playlist before every baseball game of mine, and if I don’t pitch well or start to slump, I switch artists. I also write my name in the exact same location on the inside of my brim every year. And, this year, I’ve changed my laptop background anytime the Rangers have struggled. In late January, I switched to a rather comical picture of Alain Vigneault, Brian Boyle, and Dan Carcillo reacting to something incredulously. The team got on a roll, and I have not changed since.
So, the playoff beard is just the latest in my slew of quirks. I have shaved once this postseason, for an employee evaluation at my job. That night, the Rangers got embarrassed in Philadelphia, a 5-2 drumming in game six. I have not, and will not, shave again until we are eliminated. And if there’s anything my mother should appreciate, it’s a good superstition, Ms. Right-Shoe-On-First-Always-Before-Softball-Games.
That may be why I do it, but why do so many others?
Here’s my theory. Players have grown playoff beards for decades. Many credit the origins to the Islanders of the 1980s. It’s become commonplace around the league now, and the phenomena has spread to the fans. Perhaps, it’s our ham-fisted way of feeling closer to the team. Maybe, by doing something the players do, we are more connected with the team we hold so dear. We are brothers in arms. It’s not just a collection of 20 players going into battle, it’s an army of thousands. And in a sport such as hockey, where team chemistry and camaraderie is emphasized so much, it becomes all the more important to be united.
So, forget the complaints from your mother, the derogatory comments from friends with superior facial hair growing abilities. Ignore the constant itching and the erratic patterns of growth on your neck.
It’s the playoffs, baby. It’s the Cup. And your team needs you.