The Legend of the Magic Sports Beard

So you’re not crazy about Super Bowl hero Cooper Kupp’s scrawny, mountain man mustache? Apparently neither is his family.

“I do not know what it is deal beardedCraig Kupp, father of the Los Angeles Rams wide receiver, was named Most Valuable Player. Super Bowl LVI He told The Tacoma News Tribune last Sunday, December. “I’m not a big fan.”

But it’s hard to argue with the results. The 28-year-old forward, once known for his clean-cut, chorus boy appearance, from Eastern Washington University, the third-round pick, let his blonde chin hairs pop over the last season and popped up along the way. becomes an unstoppable NFL force. Not only did he dominate the league’s biggest stage, he was also the first player to supposedly take home the trophy since 2005. triple crown For buyers, leading the league in receptions, covering pitches and scoring goals.

According to a recent Sports Illustrated article, he filled Grizzly Adams this year just because he was him. on a rolland promised skeptical family members that he would shave the moment he played a bad game.

The problem was, as her grandmother Carla Kupp pointed out late in the season, “she doesn’t have one.”

Call it superstition. Let’s call it a coincidence. Call it a fashion statement to stand out as an alpha male among alpha males. But Mr. Kupp, 28, is not the first athlete to step up his public profile and apparently up his game as he ditched beard trimmers.

Think of it as the James Harden effect. Player X is fine. Player X grows a crazy beard. Player X suddenly became awesome. Strange, isn’t it?

At least in terms of image, that’s the story of Mr. Harden, who garnered nearly as many headlines as Mr. Kupp last week after a blockbuster trade from the Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers. Mr. Harden started his career in Brooklyn in 2009 with a neatly trimmed beard that was barely enough to be a barista, and spent his early years as a sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder behind their backup teammate Kevin Durant. and Russell Westbrook.

As Mr. Harden’s beard grew and so did his basketball superpowers (or vice versa), he moved on to the Houston Rockets and became a franchise cornerstone. He won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2018, and perhaps not by accident. GQ cover model with the trademark Santa scale beard, establishing it as a triumph of personal branding for the fans who wear it “Fear The Beard” T-Shirts.

a coincidence? Certainly. It wasn’t Mr. Harden’s beard that missed the 3-pointers. Even so, an impressive beard can serve a powerful semiotic function for a male athlete, or perhaps any man, bidding for top dog status.

Some studies have shown that men with beards are perceived as masculine. higher level more and more aggressive than his clean-shaven counterparts, which is certainly not the worst connotation for a recent gladiator. A 2016 study at the University of Queensland in Australia collected data from more than 8,500 women and concluded that a full beard “shows a man’s ability to stand out.” compete for resources” is useful in finding a mate, but may not be valid when resources are touchdown.

Do you doubt the magical properties of a sports beard? Just look at what happens when they disappear. Fans in barbecue country were stunned when the seven-time Pro Bowler of the Kansas City Chiefs’ tight finale, Travis Kelce, scored a goal at training camp last summer. clean shave. (“Travis Kelce shaved his beard and rhythm and soulJosh Sánchez, a sports journalist, wrote on Twitter.) Indeed, Mr. Kelce’s season was a little shaky by his high standards, with inspiring headlines: “What’s wrong with Travis Kelce?”

Looks like it’s best not to piss off the beard gods. Take the well-traveled NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. His aura as the so-called gunslinger – a fearless passer-by seemingly unaware of the risk – every inch of his magnificent mane after the years. Mr. Fitzpatrick acknowledged that his monstrous beard was central to his image as the man behind his teeth-grinding fourth-quarter feats. “Fitzmagic.”

An outlaw beard makes an even louder statement in the relatively polite sport of baseball, where a megabeard assumes enchanted connotations for some players. Former San Francisco Giants relief shooter Brian Wilson congratulated the late assassin from a non-Beach Boys man after adopting an intimidating weapon. black beard See the path to World Series glory.

In 2016, ESPN followed a step-by-step retrospective of former Chicago Cubs star Jake Arrieta’s rise from clean-shaven collegiate to Cy Young Award winner. expanding facial hair. Los Angeles Dodgers cautious third baseman Justin Turner seemed to transform from Everyman to Superman when he adopted a player. ginger mustache boom it made him look like a berzerker from a Viking longship.

Can beard magic work for all teams? The 2013 Red Sox forged an identity and apparently a spirit of unity, embracing borderline beards not only as “a fashion accessory” but also as “a way to build,” as The New York Times reported at the time. stronger bonds After the Red Sox struggles last season,” when the team finished last in the Eastern American League.

Hey, they won the World Series that year.

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