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Growing season

Spring is when facial hair stands for something

Posted: Tuesday May 15, 2007 12:30PM; Updated: Wednesday May 16, 2007 3:47PM
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Spring is always the best time to catch the bold new looks in pro sports.
Spring is always the best time to catch the bold new looks in pro sports.
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Ah, glorious spring. Everything is in bloom, from flowers and trees to faces. The NHL remains the home of the traditional playoff beard, but some NBA players, such as Baron Davis and Rasheed Wallace, have thickened their mug rug for the postseason push. Die-hard fans, mostly of the male variety I assume, are also in on the fun, in solidarity with their teams.

Facial hair has a rich history, often with a military connection, and that's the point, isn't it? A proper beard makes a player look like a snarling combatant in the movie 300, although, like dandelions, most of the growth out there is weed-whacked as soon as the postseason wars end. A select few remain and perhaps achieve some stylistic notoriety. Check out enforcer George Parros of the Anaheim Ducks in this gallery of classic 'staches and beards. Just the perfect hint of villainy.

Occasionally, an athlete such as former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell or Gonzaga's Adam "Stache" Morrison will launch a fashion trend or earn a nickname. Bagwell's otherworldly goatee (mimicked by his teammates in the photo above) was inspired by a plot hatched with teammate Ken Caminiti, who later got cold feet (cold chin?) and backed out, leaving Bagwell to bravely stand out from the pack in spring training the way Scott Spiezio of the bizarre red chin caterpillar does now in St. Louis. But what better time for bravery and burnishing one's game face than spring?

Most of the foliage out there is haphazard and temporary, but Parros is a throwback to the days of Lanny McDonald, the Calgary Flames forward who was instantly recognizable for the huge push-broom bristles on his upper lip. NBA players favor new hair-dos for their postseason party, but in sports where a helmet covers the noggin -- did you know that Ottawa Senators defenseman Joe Corvo has a Mohawk? -- the face is the place to make your statement. (The better efforts in the NFL are almost totally obscured, but I'd love to see a Steeler go for the beard-on-one-side look, in keeping with the team's traditional logo only on one side of the helmet).

Beards and moustaches reflect the era in which they sprout. The counterculture period of the late 1960s and early 1970s was a golden age of facial hair. Joe Namath as well as members of the Brewers made the Fu Manchu huge. But no discussion is complete without a nod to Rollie Fingers, the Hall of Fame closer whose waxed, handlebar moustache became his trademark.


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