October 4, 2013

Sox make beards unlikely symbol of dramatic turn-around season

Fans and beard wearers alike can’t brush off what the whiskers are doing for Red Sox Nation.

by Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

Reverse the curse. Cowboy up. Believe in the beard.

Patrick Carey of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

In Red Sox Nation, each baseball season is savored like a piece of classic literature. In the best years there’s some defiant rallying cry, some new mythic quality assigned to the team, that bonds fans and players.

This year, it’s the power of beards. Facial hair that would make Bigfoot blush, to be specific. Unfettered from any requirements of a daily shave, the Sox have cruised to the best record in the American League. Their first playoff game is this afternoon.

Forget the bushy faces of TV’s “Duck Dynasty,” the Red Sox are aiming for the World Series and baseball’s first Beard Dynasty.

The wandering whiskers worn by a dozen or so of the players have become a scruffy yet heart-warming symbol of the team’s dramatic turnaround, a year after it finished last in its division. The beards have been embraced by fans and the media as a tangible, pull-able sign of great clubhouse chemistry.

Walk around downtown Portland and you’ll see that longish beards are a growing fashion trend, more common and more varied than ever. Ask any bearded man about the Sox beards and he’ll tell you that after years of being seen as a slightly countercultural facial accessory, the beard is being linked with the good guys.

“It’s probably good for beards,” said Bradford Taylor, 35, a bearded security guard at the Portland Museum of Art. “I reckon any beard press is good beard press.”

The Sox beard brigade has captured imaginations and drawn attention from the likes of The New York Times and ESPN because its creation can be seen as both goofy and spontaneous.

The Red Sox front office noticed the power of the beard, and on Sept. 18, a Wednesday night, the Sox held Dollar Beard Night. Anyone with a beard – real, fake or even drawn on in magic marker – got a chance to buy a ticket for $1. The available tickets, about 5,000, were gone in hours.

“The best promotions we can do are the organic ones, the ones that start with reality, like the players saying they had to ‘cowboy up’ 10 years ago,” said Charles Steinberg, the team’s longtime head of public affairs. “When the players are leading the way and setting the tone, when they are having fun, it invites the fans to join them on the journey, and that’s what makes it a real unified celebration.”

“Cowboy up” was certainly organic, a phrase first uttered by first baseman Kevin Millar, essentially saying the team had to dig in and play better.

“Reverse the Curse” became a rallying cry, too, but it was based mostly on the media-driven Curse of the Bambino. Supposedly, the Red Sox cursed themselves by trading the Bambino, Babe Ruth, so they failed to win a World Series for 86 years, until 2004.

At Dollar Beard Night, the Sox PR folks helped to grow the organic beard phenomenon by posting graphics on social media that showed the shape and style of 12 players’ beards. People could take their cotton, duct tape and markers and fashion their own facial creations based on those of their favorite players.

Steinberg said the beards have helped the fans to have a real impact on this year’s team.

“When players see fans growing beards and wearing beards, everyone’s attitude improves. It allows fans to have an impact,” he said.

By growing a beard, a fan can literally take one on the chin for the team.

Besides, it’s fun to see millionaire ballplayers who can afford the best of everything reveling in unshaven bliss. It makes them seem just a little more like real folks.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Maxim Bergfield-Davis.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Patrick Mehlhorn of Waterboro.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Brian Cogill of Parsonsfield.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Bradford Taylor of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Griffin Mehlhorn of Waterboro.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Alex Faunce.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Bill Slavick of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Chris Thompson of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Albert Wheeler of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Randy Ussery of New Gloucester.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Jeff Carpenter of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Marc Gowdy of Berwick.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer



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