Sometimes in life you’re right, and other times you’re wrong. For instance, in 2008, I bet my dad a new Mets hat that the Tampa Bay Rays would make the playoffs – they wound up reaching the World Series. In this instance, I was right.
Last week, when I delivered my Spongebob oriented article, I said that was my last blog entry. In that instance, I was wrong. You can’t win ’em all.
Well here we are, back again. This too, is not the last blog article, but it may have been the most fun article. With the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs starting on Wednesday, I figured there is nothing more symbolic about the NHL playoffs than the amazing beards that the warriors we call hockey players can only earn by advancing further and further in the playoffs.
I would have loved to write a blog about the five best playoff beards, but I imagine that would compete closely with the ratings the NHL turned out during it’s days on OLN, or Outdoor Life Network (don’t feel bad, most people haven’t heard of it.) So, I mixed in all sports – even included soccer (finally!!!!) So as always, here it is, the top five beards in all of sports.
5.Alexi Lalas – A red beard is a good beard, so Lalas easily qualifies here. I’ve put few soccer, or futbol players in these countdown lists since they began, so I figured what better a time than now to include a futboler. Lalas, who can now be seen, clean shaven on ESPN, used to sport the free-spirited moustache-beard during his playing days. Lalas was a part of the US National team two times, and is a Rutgers alum (New Jersey-ians have always been known for their beards!) The only thing potentially better than the Alexi Lalas beard is probably his real name, which is not Alexi, but actually Panayotis. The casual soccer fan of my generation knows Cobi Jones for his hair, Landon Donovan for his forehead, and Alexi Lalas for that beautiful beat red beard. Lalas doesn’t get the nod of Lanny McDonald (both beards very similar in nature) only because McDonald still sports the moustache that made him such a symbolic figure in the NHL, but that doesn’t mean Alexi’s beard isn’t an all time great. Here’s to hoping that Lalas grows it just in time for this summer’s World Cup.
4.James Harden – The former Arizona State Sun Devil and Oklahoma City Thunder castoff’s beard has become as trademark in the NBA as Jerry West himself; well, maybe not QUITE as trademark as the NBA logo, but to young fans of the NBA, James Harden’s beard is NBA basketball 101.Harden is a top 5 player in the league, and his beard is a top five beard of all time, hands down. Some may wonder why Harden has the beard, but at this point, I think I speak for the rest of sports fans when I say if Harden ever shaved is beard off, I would absolutely boycott NBA basketball for a little while. As the Rockets get set to start a playoff run, the beard is only going to gain more notoriety, especially if the Rockets can reach the apex of the NBA and bring home a championship. If that were to happen, look out world and LaLa Anthony – at this point, Carmelo has nothing to lose by trying out a little facial hair-piece!
3.Lanny McDonald – It only makes sense we start with a hockey player as this blog is a tribute to the beards were about to meet during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Hall of Famer (inducted in 1992) was known for his awesome moustache for most of his career (he still has it) but when his last chance of wining a cup rolled around with Calgary in 1989, the stache turned into one of those best beards of all time. McDonald, 36 at the time, was a healthy scratch for games three, four and five of the finals against Montreal, but he was inserted in the starting lineup for game six with the Flames up 3-2 in the series. McDonald beat Patrick Roy to give Calgary a 2-1 lead, a lead the Flames would never relinquish. McDonald had finally won his cup. Wearing the Captains “C” that night, McDonald was the first Flame to receive the Stanley Cup from then NHL President John Ziegler. Everyone had won – McDonald finally got his cup, and we had the pleasure of watching that red bearded face hoist the Stanley Cup above his head – a picture perfect sight for any hockey fan.
2.Johnny Damon – In game five of the 2003 NLDS, Johnny Damon and Damien Jackson collided at the Oakland Colliseum trying to catch a pop up off the bat of Jermaine Dye. Jackson got to his feet under his own power, but Damon didn’t have the same fortune. He left the home of the Oakland A’s with a severe concussion, and his status for the rest of the playoffs was in serous doubt. Damon came back to play against the Yankees in the ALCS after the Red Sox defeated the A’s in Game Five, but he clearly wasn’t the same player. Blah blah blah, Aaron Boone, fast forward to next season. Opening day at Fenway, 2004. Who is that man in center field? As they used to say in Boston (especially after Damon jumped ship from Boston to the hated Yankees,) “He looks like Jesus and throws like Mary!” It was Johnny Damon in center field, now in disguise, sporting a full beard and long hair. When asked why the radical appearance change, Damon answered that after the concussion, he got “a little lazy.” With the curse still in tact, Johnny Damon, his beard and the rest of his “idiot” Red Sox teammates (as they dubbed themselves) undid the Yankees and a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 ALCS, large in part to the six Damon RBI’s including a grand slam in game seven. The Red Sox went on to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series, and the curse of the bambino was over – and Damon’s beard was forever enshrined in the “greatest beards of all time debate….”
…..until he signed with the Yankees after the 2005 season; and if you’re not big on baseball, the Yankees sort of have this policy about facial hair – thus ending the Damon beard. The beard was gone, but never forgotten, but Damon will always be kind of lame for doing what he did. (Jacoby Ellsbury, you’re no better.)
1.Brian Wilson – Where do we start with Brian Wilson. Obviously Wilson has an all time great beard, otherwise we wouldn’t be discussing the former World Series champion closer right now. Wilson and his beard have such a strong bond, that unlike Johnny Damon, Wilson ruled out signing with the New York Yankees (who were in need of a reliever like Wilson at the time) because he just would not part ways with his beard. As Ron Burgendy once said about Veronica Corningstone’s behind, “That thing is good. I mean, that thing is real good.” For my dollar, Brian Wilson has the best beard in the sports world we know – so good, he even puts it in a nice little pony tail. Wilson has been on the shelf for much of the last two years (undergoing Tommy John surgery, like seemingly what is the rest of Major League Baseball) but the Dodgers gave him a home, and are ready to bring him back from the DL in perfect time – against his former team, where the legend of the beard all began…in San Francisco. Anyone who goes on Jim Rome’s show and acts so bizarre that Rome doesn’t know what to do? A great start. But someone who does that to Rome AND turns down the Yankees just to keep his beard? Say no more, good man. You win!
Here is a little commercial as proof that beards are IN when it comes to the NHL playoffs. Verizon ran an ad a few years back featuring the Philadelphia Flyers. The commercial portrays the Flyers running the table, going 82-0 and winning a cup, all with beards that rival those of ZZ Top. Unfortunately for Flyers fans, it was just that, a commercial, not real life.
But this is no time for me to talk smack to Flyers fans, as my New York Rangers will do battle with them in an Eastern Conference first round matchup. So, now I shut my mouth, because unlike the NBA playoffs…you just never know with the NHL.
Good luck to all 16 teams involved.