Why growing a mo can be the difference between winning and losing in the minds of sports men
Superstition is nothing new in the world of sport. There are countless examples of superstitious routines in sport. Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina (University) shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts at all times. Turk Wendell a former Cubs and Mets reliever use to brush his teeth and chew licorice between every inning. Former Red Sox and Yankees’ player Wade Boggs was often referred to as the “Chicken Man” because he ate chicken habitually before every game and would also start wind sprints exactly 16 minutes before each game.
Dr. Richard Lustberg, Ph.D. explains that the superstition creates a confidence inside the player or coach: “Athletes begin to believe, and want to believe, that their particular routine is enhancing their performance” It is this “want to beleive” that has led to the latest facial hair related phenomenon – The Playoff Beard.
In truth, it’s unfair to call this a recent development. The forefather of the movement was tennis legend Bjorn Borg. Each year, he would let his beard grow prior to Wimbledon. It became a routine, so much so that Sports Illustrated ran with the story – “The Beard has begun” Borg didn’t lose a single match for five years – the power of the beard was no longer a secret. In the modern era, both James Blake and Andy Roddick refused to shave until they were eliminated from Grand Slam events.
The Playoff Beard is my no means an exclusively tennis tradition. In the 1980’s the Nation Hockey League (NHL) tradition of players not shaving their beards began. Today, the tradition has spread to hockey leagues across the globe and from the professional ranks right down to high school teams.
Closer to home, there have been several examples of Playoff Beards in Irish sport. However, the winners have to be the Tyrone football team. The lads stopped shaving for the duration of the 2008 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship campaign. It worked – they went on to lift the Sam Maguire Cup.