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Soup of This Day #335: It’s Fine If You Got The Time

September 17, 2013

Jonny Gomes
Jonny ‘Ironsides’ Gomes, Red Sox left fielder and Civil War veteran – Photo: Keith Allison, 2013. Keith Allison is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I 1st tried to grow a beard around 20 years ago. It wasn’t a great beard – Barely befitting that name, it was a sparse covering of downy wisps that I sort of shaped into a goatee. A purist might even argue that a goatee isn’t a proper beard anyway and there is some merit to that argument – A goatee is like a spork – The utensil that is a mash-up of a spoon and a fork.

I don’t hold no affection for sporks – Sure they’re undeniably useful, but I can’t shake the feeling that if I go for the spork I’ve failed at making 1 of life’s key decisions. This for me is what it’s like to settle on a goatee – Neither a full commitment to the smooth aesthetics of a spoon, nor a whole-hearted embracing of the spiky functionality of a fork. And that’s ok, but only to a point I guess – Sooner or later though there will come a tine in life when you have to make a distinction.

Still, in spite of my unease at the compromise, I sported some variation of a goatee for nigh on a decade. I treated it as a sort of placeholder for when I’d warrant a proper beard. I knew in my heart that the day would come around and sure enough, in 2003, I got me a reason to cultivate a decent growth.

That year, as Christina Aguilera was telling us all we were beautiful*, I was working on a fruit plantation. It was hot and humid out there and the prospect of a shaving rash in those conditions drove me to bury my razor at the back of the bathroom cabinet and just let the beard loose. In fact I buried those blades so deep that 10 years on and I’ve not shaved since.

Don’t think that I’m a regular Wookie though – I have trimmed, and sometimes with good reason – A couple of times I’ve reached that point whereby my beard was intruding on my lifestyle. There are these easy signs that indicate when this is – Like not being able to freely turn my head to check my blind-spot when driving, or waking up with bed-beard – A condition I’ve identified whereby my beard is slanted at around 30 degrees because I slept on it. The key indicator though has always been when my beard starts cuddling my wife independent of me. Once I even thought I heard it crooning to her.

Yep, beards are fine, so long as you use them only as an addendum to life. Sadly though for some people, beards aren’t even given that level of respect.

People like George Michael Steinbrenner III.

George Steinbrenner did not like beards. In fact the former Yankees owner didn’t seem to like much of anything going on upstairs other than neat, army-style grooming. According to Wikipedia:

‘All players, coaches, and male executives were forbidden to display any facial hair other than mustaches (except for religious reasons), and scalp hair could not be grown below the collar.’

There’s no word on whether the cantankerous coot ever enforced a standard on the hair-styles of female members of his organisation but I think we can take it as read that they weren’t allowed beards either.

It’s open for debate as to whether this policy has meant that the Yankees are a better ball club. If winning is something to judge by then the 2004 American League Championship Series (ALCS) might be a key marker – In that best-of-7 contest, the clean-cut, neatly turned out Yankees led the scruffy, unkempt Red Sox by 3 games to 0, and they were 3 outs away from making it an oh-so-clean sweep when something extraordinary happened.

The Red Sox were dubbed a bunch of ‘idiots’, because of their relaxed attitude, as exemplified by their loose appearance. You would have thought that idiots would not be overturning such a deficit – No baseball team had ever come back from 3-0 down and Boston hadn’t won a World Series in 86 years. That’s a lot of history to overcome.

The thing is though, with that kind of legacy, a bunch of idiots were just what the Red Sox needed. Deriding the pressure and the seeming hopelessness of the situation, Boston’s players dragged themselves back into the series, with wild hair and unkempt beards to the fore.

Then the bunch of idiots won the series.

And the 1 after that, which happened to be the World Series. Which was, to my mind anyway, not just a repudiation of the Curse of the Bambino, but also a blow to the idea that guys in beards are the lesser of the species.

There’s more too… This current crop of Red Sox have outdone their 2004 brethren for facial hair. In fact the beards are so plentiful and magnificent that it’s possible that manager John Farrell could fashion a decent recreation of the 28th Massachusetts charge through the Wheatfield at Gettysburg.

There’d be Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes leading the line. Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Brandon Workman would be the artillery while Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross would be backing up.

The standard-bearer though would have to be Mike Napoli. Sure he strikes out a lot but that’s ok when you’re waving a flag. Meanwhile, for all the whiffs, he is pretty damn good on offence and handy on defence. Plus Napoli’s beard is so impressive that you’d say it’s more structural than ornamental – The kind you could imagine hanging a satchel from or maybe supporting a plate of food in the field. It’s nothing short of a fine beard and it deserves recognition.

Hell, you could just attach a flag pole to Napoli’s chin** and wave his beard round as the battle-flag of Red Sox Nation that is celebrating a season that has already yielded 92 wins and a greater turn-around than 1967’s Impossible Dream.

For all that, Napoli’s model just wouldn’t be my beard. I’d be more of a David Ross – The Sox catcher has a well constructed unit streaked with grey. That’d be me.

That’s right – Sure, I may suffer a little every time The Angus grabs a hold and tries to swing off of my facial growth like Tarzan – But I can hold my head up high and proudly announce that I’m an idiot too.

Let’s go Red Sox.

*Don’t you bring me down today. Or tomorrow.
**Maybe use a cardboard cut-out of Mike Napoli.

It’s Fine If You Got The Time

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