Sunday, October 17, 2010

The tragedy of Brian Wilson's beard

What happened on the mound during Saturday evening's National League playoff game between the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants was a minor tragedy.

It was the 8th inning. A burly and intimidating Brian Wilson took the rosin bag. His performance didn't concern me. He was stellar. A 96-mile-per-hour fastball struck down the final four outs of the game. It was an exemplary performance for a closing pitcher - Mo Rivera territory - but something much more important was amiss: the state of his facial hair.

I sat watching the last two innings, as Brian Wilson dominated hitters, and couldn't get my mind off his prominent beard. It was long. It was heavy. A suspiciously dark hue. Something was off here. It was very neatly trimmed - manicured like the topiary on the Todt Hill estate.

It was just too damn pretty for baseball.

I consider myself a baseball purist. Not in the sense of designated hitters and dome stadiums -- these have been around since before my time. But there is a storied tradition of relief pitchers and facial hair. They somehow manage to sign a multi-million dollar contract and still look like the guy who changes your oil.

Back in the '80s, we had the Lenny Dykstra era, when baseball players were tobacco spitting, head-first sliding, amphetamine-driven dynamos, with nothing more than a decisive win and after-game hooker on their minds.

You might want to make a moral judgement about this description. But, talk to any Wall Street power player during these years and they'll tell you how brokers were devouring cocaine like Pixy Stix.

Should our athletes be held to a higher standard? Wouldn't they be subject to the same vices as others in their milieu? Who knows?

But back to Mr. Wilson. How exactly did he trim this monstrosity? He obviously spent a lot of time, effort, and thought on his lumberjack costume. Do the San Francisco Giants employ a team 'stylist' and - we hate to insinuate - but is there a hint of Just For Men on this mane?

Where is Mark Fainaru-Wada when we need him?

We live in a time when a chart-topping male pop singer is sometimes mistaken for a lesbian. And last week's episode of 'Jersey Shore' showed Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino - our generation's Stanley Kowalski - getting his eyebrows trimmed.

It's no secret that the collective testosterone level has been demoted in today's popular culture ('Big Bang Theory,' Robert Pattinson). But baseball? I honestly never thought it would come to this.

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