Watching game four of the 2012 baseball World Series, I’m struck by the absence of playoff beards. For the uninitiated, playoff beards refer to the tradition of a hockey player not shaving during the Stanley Cup playoffs. A player stops shaving for the first game of the playoffs and does not resume until his team is eliminated or wins the championship. Most believe the tradition was started by the New York Islanders during their championship run in the early 1980’s.
While playoff beards have spread to professional football, basketball, and soccer, they are still relatively rare in baseball. Two years ago, San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson grew an unruly beard which he dyed jet black. “Fear the Beard” became a popular rallying cry and was cemented in baseball lore when the Giants won the World Series.
This year, with Brian Wilson injured, Sergio Romo has taken over his role as a closer and is sporting a black playoff beard. The superstition appears to be working. So far, he has been nearly unhittable.
The Chicago Tribune noted the trend and speculated “the better the beard, the better the closer, and therefore anyone with a great beard could be a great Giants closer.” The Tribune superimposed the heads of bearded celebrities on top of Romo’s body, including Karl Marx, ZZ Top and Zach Galifianakis. My personal favorite is Abraham Lincoln. Given he’s a Bay Area native, I expected the bearded Jerry Garcia as well.
While playoff beards may seem a bit frivolous, the sports marketing agency CENERGY launched Beard-a-thon which encourages fans to grow their own playoff beard for charity. So far, 25,000 participants have raised more than $1M for charity. There’s no reason to fear those beards.