2012 was a mixed year for mustaches in sports. There were triumphs and joy … and there was loss (you won't have Andy Reid's mustache to kick around anymore). Some classic mustaches are no longer with us [moment of silence while black and white images of Keith Hernandez’s mustache flicker across the screen… applause], but new and invigorating facial hair stepped up to take their place. Some were grown for charity for “Movember,” others for more personal reasons. There were also some rather unfortunate missteps, as is often the case when amateurs and facial hair mix.
As we leave 2012 and its mustaches behind, here at the highs and the lows, the notable steps forward and back for mustaches and mustachekind.
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Deacon White: The Hall of Fame Mustache
Catcher Deacon White, elected to the Hall via Veterans Committee earlier this winter, played from 1871 to 1890. As Sports on Earth’s Joe Posnanski wrote,
White was a good player in his era -- a two-time batting champ, three times he led the league in RBIs (the last 33 years before RBI was an official stat). He was called Deacon because he was deeply religious and a regular churchgoer in a time when baseball was more Wild West than Sunday Choir. But perhaps his most wonderful quality is that Deacon White, apparently, was convinced that the world was flat. According to Lee Allen's "The National League Story," the good Deacon tried to convince his teammates of the world's flatness using the impeccable logic that the world obviously doesn't move because, if it did, how could an outfielder catch a fly ball?
What Joe failed to mention, however, is Deacon White’s ’stache, which is enough for Hall of Fame admission all by itself.
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Aaron Rodgers: Best Tribute
Not everyone loved Rodgers’ mustache, grown for Movember, but say what you want, the man can cultivate a serious one. Not only that, but when asked about his mustache role models, he paid tribute to the real GOAT: Sam Elliot, who appreciated the nod. (This marks the first and hopefully the last-ever time Sports on Earth links to TMZ.)
Runner-up: Joe Flacco’s own Fu Manchu was pretty great, but his dream of getting the whole offensive team to grow ’staches together sadly never materialized, aside from Dennis Pitta’s. Clearly those leadership skills still need to be honed. The Fu Manchu bit the dust in January after the Ravens lost to the Patriots.
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Tomás González: The Olympic Mustache
The Olympics are mostly a mustache wasteland these days, especially the Summer Olympics -- but not this year. Chilean gymnast Tomás González finished fourth in the men’s Floor and Vault Finals, just out of the medals, but he impressed millions of viewers worldwide with his lip sweater, as well as his top-scoring vault routine.
Honorable mention: American runner William Leer did not quite make it to the Olympics, unfortunately, but he is an accomplished runner who advanced to the finals in the Olympic trials, while sporting a mustache so luxurious it almost seems like the wind drag would reduce his overall time. Why? “’I look really good in a mustache,’” he told The New York Times, while “running his sweaty fingers through it.”
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Lexington Legends: Best Rebranding
The Legends are Kansas City’s Class A affiliate, and while you probably already knew the Royals had a strong farm system, they have really taken it up a notch with their mascot and their new hat logo.
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Derek Holland: The Undead Mustache
Just when you thought you were safe…
Holland has been rightly mocked for his ’stache for several years now. Some people just cannot grow proper facial hair, and Holland, at least in this stage of his life, is one of them. It made him look like a 15-year-old trying to look older and tougher, and so of course it had the opposite effect.
What finally made Holland shave at the end of May? ESPN’s Buster Olney had reported that he would shave in preparation for his engagement photos, but Holland denied that, and said he simply decided it was time for a change. He got shelled in his next start, but as for concerns that this was mustache-related -- and yes, a few people had that concern, because sports fans are insane -- Holland said, “the mustache doesn’t throw the pitches.” Which gave us a great mental image.
Whatever his reasons for shaving, it was 2012’s best addition by subtraction … until Holland grew it back. This thing won’t die that easy. Fetch the garlic and silver stake.
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Delmon Young: The Mistake
Okay, so this was not actually Delmon Young’s biggest mistake this year. But it was close.
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Phil Jackson: Sometimes A Mustache is Just a Mustache
Every time an NBA coach gets fired, from now until Phil Jackson takes a new job or leaves this Earth, he will be breathlessly mentioned as a possible replacement -- and when the team searching for a coach is the Lakers, change “breathless” to “hyperventilating.” Such was the case this fall when Mike Brown was unceremoniously canned five games into the season. It reached a point where ESPN was “reporting” that ““Jackson is in Los Angeles and was seen sporting a mustache, the same look he went with when the Lakers first hired him in 1999, at a recent dinner.”
Using mustaches to predict the future: the new phrenology?
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Brendan Ryan: Best Scoreboard Fact
The folks who run the Yankee Stadium scoreboard, like most in the majors, include little facts about the player at bat -- an unusual or impressive statistic, maybe a current current streak, just a nice little tidbit for the home crowd.
Sometimes they venture a little farther afield.
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The Blue Jay Hunter: Most Impressive and/or Excessive Mustache Archiving
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Keith Hernandez’s Mustache
Hernandez’s mustache, which along with Don Mattingly’s (RIP) defined an era of baseball in New York City, met its fate unflinchingly, courageously sacrificing itself for the greater good, out in Flushing where it first made a name for itself many years before.
Goodbye, Keith Hernandez’s Mustache. May you rise like a phoenix from the ashes of your Just For Men endorsement deal.
Kevin Gilbride’s Mustache
At least with Keith Hernandez’s mustache, we had fair warning and time to say goodbye. Not so for Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride’s mustache, which went in a tragic accident, as hilariously documented in Sam Borden’s New York Times article:
“Kevin Gilbride’s mustache, a legendary lip adornment that won two Super Bowl championships and was respected as one of the most enduring examples of responsible facial hair in sports, died last month in a shaving accident at the Giants’ practice facility here. It was believed to be about 41.”
Of course, given the way the season went for the Giants, fans may not find the story quite so amusing now as they did at the time.
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Happy New Year from Sports on Earth, and here's to a mustache-filled 2013.