What's in a beard? Nothing, perhaps. Or, maybe everything.
This year's Red Sox team is on the brink of making baseball history by going from last place (last season) to first (this season). The Yankees, on the other hand, are on the brink of being left out of the postseason altogether. (And as a Sox fan, there are few sentences I could enjoy typing as much as that last one.)
This year, the Sox are a heavily bearded bunch. The Yankees, of course, haven't been allowed to wear facial hair since the beginning of the Steinbrenner regime back in 1973. (Though they can grow mustaches, which seems moronic. It's all facial hair. Why elevate the mustache to some symbol of civilization at the expense of the beard? the goatee? the lamb chop? But I digress.)
As per this past weekend's series between the Sox and Yankees, as well as this upcoming weekend's upcoming series revisited, there's been a great deal of press regarding the bearded Sox and their season-long success.
Just this past week alone, both The New York Times (“Bonding with Beards, the Red Sox Repair their Clubhouse Chemistry”) and The New Yorker (“The Joy of Sox”) attributed this season's Beantown baseball success, in part, to their facial hair. Closer to Fenway, Boston Globe blogger Obnoxious Boston Fan's recent post (“This year, beards mean baseball in Boston”) provides a nice, concise history of Boston's boys of summer, and their year by year shaving patterns (or lack thereof), including a 1977 team photo, featuring a fully bearded Bill “The Spaceman” Lee, a mustachioed Jim Rice, and a Fu Manchued El Tiante (Luis Tiant).
My coming of age as a fan Sox season was 1986. I don't quite remember how that team fared, but I do vividly recall that a majority of their lineup (Wade Boggs, Bill Buckner, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Don Baylor, Dave "Hindu" Henderson, etc.) wore facial hair.
Similarly, Boston's 2004 World Series winning squad was likewise a scruffy bunch, with the perpetually unshaved dirtdog posterboy Trot Nixon, fully bearded Johnny (Jesus hair) Damon, and neatly goateed Tim Wakefield, not to mention Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and so forth.
This year's Sox club has taken facial hair to the extreme. But after the past two years, maybe that's exactly what it took to see the season clear into October.
Either way, it will be a lot easier than usual to tell the two teams apart at Fenway this weekend. And I can't help but feel that those Yankees players will wish they could put down the razor and have some fun for just a few games.