Can You Help Me Understand the Playoff Beard?

Dear Sports Fan,

The guy I’m dating has started to grow a “playoff beard” to support his favorite hockey team. Can you tell me what he could possibly be thinking? And is there anything I can do to stop him?


Dear Sonja,

The growing of a playoff beard in the context of a relationship can be a very delicate issue, particularly if you are not into your beau’s tonsorial experiment for stylistic reasons. We must deal with whether it’s okay to try to influence the beard, and if so, what the best methods are.

In most cases, I would argue that a partner’s appearance is out of bounds. Everyone influences their partner’s style by complimenting them on certain choices and staying silent on others. It’s even okay to say things like, “Honey, those neon teal capris are very flattering on you, but I think I prefer the way a simple pair of jeans allows your natural elegance to shine through.” It’s fine to express an opinion, but when it comes to actually asking, negotiating, or demanding a stylistic change… that crosses a line and becomes an infringement on your partner’s individuality and personal control.

Is a playoff beard really a choice of style though? I don’t think so. I think it’s an element of fandom divorced from[1] style. It’s more akin to painting your face on game day or wearing giant foam fingers[2] than cutting bangs into your hair. It’s very likely that he is doing this because somewhere deep down, he feels like his actions will affect the success of his team. This is as obviously insane as it is common.

One argument you could make is that the playoff beard isn’t really as much of a rule as people think it is. The playoff beard is a relatively recent tradition, having been started by the New York Islanders in the 1980s. It was immediately correlated with victory when the Islanders won four Stanley Cup championships in a row.[3] The NHL has been around since 1917, so the majority of its history has been spent sans beard. Even since 1980 there have been lulls and resurgences in the popularity of the playoff beard. For instance, in 2009 the Detroit Red Wings used the slogan “The Beard is Back” on their way to the finals. Unless your date is a Red Wings fan, he probably hates that team. Ask him if he really wants to be a part of something the Red Wings “brought back.”

If you prefer the indirect approach, here are a couple things you might want to try.

  • Wait until day four. This is probably the itchiest day in the history of the universe. Watch for a particularly agonized moment and mention how much more you enjoy kissing his neck when it’s smooth.
  • According to the rules of playoff beards, not being able to grow a beard does not excuse you. For example, Patrick Kane grew a playoff mullet a couple years back. Tell your boyfriend that you’re going to join him this playoff season as best you can. According to the rules, “Women are not exempt from playoff beards.  Some refuse to shave their legs…others get more…um…creative.  I’ll just leave it at that.”

Your third option is to embrace the playoff beard! You might be surprised at how much you grow to like the “fuzzy and furry facial accoutrement” growing on his face. The female bloggers over at Puck Daddy certainly do — they just wrote a “Guide to 2012 Stanley Cup scruff.” Encourage him to take part in the beard-based charity drive at Beard-A-Thon where hockey fans have raised over $100,000 so far!

Thanks for your question,
Ezra Fischer
Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. perhaps even intentionally oppositional to
  2. of course if he is growing a beard, he probably does those things too…
  3. Also point out that they have not won since… so it may be more of a curse than a boon

Do Home Teams Wear White? Why?

Dear Sports Fan,

Speaking of my teams colors. can you explain the color choices and jersey choices that teams have.  I know there are home jerseys and away jerseys.  What are third jerseys?  What about when two teams play at home (Gians v. jets)?



Dear Pat,

This is something I’ve been wondering about for years! I swear that when I was a kid the home team used to wear white. Now they seem to wear their team color and the road team usually wears white. Arghh — it’s been driving me crazy! Thanks to your question, I did a little research and I think that I can explain it.

Here’s what I think happened. When I was a kid, the two primary sports in my life were soccer (which I played maniacally until my knees fell off) and hockey (which I started watching maniacally in 1993-94. In both of these cases, it was customary for the home team to wear white and the away team to wear a more colorful uniform. On my traveling team we wore white at home and when we drove to Manalapan or Hopewell we wore our sweet orange unis that looked like the Princeton University ones with a little pretentious crest. In the NHL it was the same way. My favorite team, the Penguins, wore their white and gold uniforms at home and their black and gold ones on the road whether I was watching them on my fuzzy little television or playing as them in the classic computer game NHL 93 on my fuzzy little computer screen. The other major sports in the U.S., Football, Basketball, and Baseball were present in my life, but off to the edge somewhere. I’m not sure I made note of their color systems. Since then, these sports (except for Baseball) have become a bigger part of my life while soccer has retreated into the distance (with my knees.) As this happened, the NHL decided to switch (in 2003) from Home = white to Home = color. Anyway, this is how it stands now:

  • Football — Home = Color
  • Hockey — Home = Color
  • Baseball — Home = White
  • Basketball — Home = White

It’s a little confusing, but there are arguments/explanations for both systems. For example — the road team wears darker colors because once upon a time they might not have had access to laundry between games and the darker colors hid the stains better. Or — home teams wear light jerseys because dark jerseys attract the sun which is a competitive disadvantage. Or — (and this is where your third jersey explanation comes in) the road teams wear white so that the home team can use its third jersey. A third jersey is usually another colored jersey that is either futuristic or a throw-back to a previous color scheme/design that a team will wear strategically to sell more merchandise to its fans. Some sports have requirements about when or how much teams can use this third jersey.

Back in my (old)hockey/soccer days I always thought the color scheme came down to a question of identification. Everyone knows who the home team is because it’s the home team! So it’s okay for them to wear white. The color of the road team helps the home fans to know who they are playing against. Later in my football/(new)hockey days I thought it was a subjugation thing — the home team gets to peacock around in its finest colored plumage while the road team is forced to look just like everyone else in white. When there are two “home teams” like in the case of Jets v. Giants or Lakers v. Clippers, the league will designate one of the teams as “home” and one as “away.” Jersey colors, season tickets, and other stuff follows from that.

What really bugs me is that home teams during the NHL playoffs will often do a “white-out” where all their fans get free white t-shirts. This is supposed to be intimidating? To a road team that’s wearing white? Arhg!!!

In case this hasn’t been enough dorky conversation about team colors, check out these guys at ColorWerx™ (formerly The Society for Sports Uniforms Research.™) Whoa!

Ezra Fischer

What are my Cap Options at a Ball Game?

Dear Sports Fan,

I want to go to a baseball game and wear a baseball cap but I don’t like the home team’s colors. What are my options?

Unknown female name rhyming with Bill


Dear Jill,

It seems to be fashion week here at Dear Sports Fans.  If you missed it, glance back at Monday’s column when Dean Russell Bell helped you pick out the perfect sports jersey for your persona.  If you look closely he will also answer the age-old question of why baseball players wear belts. (Hint: the answer is not to hold in their rather athletic guts.)

Today’s question, though, is a hat of a different color, or to be more precise, whether or not it is acceptable to wear one to a baseball game.

In my mind, sporting events are in many ways, like a costume party.  You have:  your neighbor who has spent every waking moment since last October planning out and putting together the perfect customized costume; the group that upon receiving the invite spend about a week putting together a solid outfit; the couple in your office who will run to the store at the last minute and just pick up whatever costume is still available; the girl who shows up in lingerie and black fuzzy ears and tells everyone that she is a cat; and, of course, the guy who will talk non-stop about how stupid and juvenile it is to wear a costume every single day until the party and then show up without a costume at the party to continue his tirade

For you Jill, I think we can immediately rule out the first and the last.  Your objections to wearing a specific colored hat clearly indicate that you are not about to forgo the hat for a full mascot costume or body paint.  On the other hand, given that you are making the effort to wear a hat at all, I think we can safely rule out our costume curmudgeon.  Both are ok.  No one expects you to become super crazy fan overnight, and everyone is thankful that you aren’t going to attend the event just to be the downer in the corner.

That leaves you with three other options for finding the perfect hat:

First, if you see yourself as the last minute couple, willing to make the effort but not overly concerned about the result, I think we can find you a hat that would work.  These days baseball hats are not only a way to support a team but also a fashion trend.  As such, you can buy a team logoed hat in just about any shade or design you want.  If you don’t want to be completely off the wall in your hat choice, try to find a hat that has some relation to your team colors.  Many teams have accent colors that they incorporate into logos or gear that might be a good alternative.  In addition, all baseball teams have an alternate or third jersey that they have or will use on occasion.[1] Sometimes those jerseys involve very different colors that you could consider.

Or, if you are a kitty cat kind of girl, then there is a Pepto-Bismol pink hat with your name all over it.  Some marketing genius in the sports world decided that girls who watch sports are only comfortable doing so in a bumble gum pink hat adorned with rhinestones and glitter.  Despite what my derisive tone my lead you to believe, this isn’t actually a terrible option, if you happen to like pink.  They do have some more subtle pink options, and the hats are official team merchandise so they support your team and the league.

And lastly, and my personal preference, if you are a member of the group, you will realize that the best way to have fun at any type of social event, but especially a sporting event, is to get into it and let yourself have fun.  Go ahead and buy the hat in the official team colors.  The worst that happens is that you own an ugly hat that you will only ever wear when surrounded by a giant crowd of people all similarly adorned in ugly colored garb.  It’s just a hat.   You can easily hide it in your bag and then put it on when you walk into the stadium.   And who knows?  Maybe you will let yourself have enough fun that by the end of the game, you might just forget to remove that ugly hat before you walk out of the stadium.

Have fun,
Lisa Filipek

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. According to Wikipedia, the NY Yankees are the only teams without a third jersey.  I am  going to go out on a limb here and assume that the colors that bother you aren’t navy blue and white.

Why Don't Coaches Wear Suits Anymore?

Dear Sports Fan,

Why is it that when I look at classic footage the coaches are always wearing suits, but now they all look like models for sports authority?

Thanks Pat


Dear Pat,

On this issue, football’s no different than any other area of American business – forty years ago you couldn’t picture businessmen wearing anything other than a suit, even to sleep. Now, Mark Zuckerberg proudly states that he never wore a suit until he met the President.

The worst sideline dresser in the NFL is Bill Belichick, the Mark Zuckerberg of professional football. He’s the New England Patriots coach who looks like he should be holding a sign asking you for change…and is also widely acknowledged as the most brilliant coach of this era. Now, he’s partly a mad scientist, which is why he can get away with wearing cut-off sweatshirts (yes, they exist,) but if you’re a coach and you see the guy dominating your profession wearing pajamas to work, why the heck would you dress up in a suit?

There’s no doubt that it’s impressive to see Tom Landry, the legendary Cowboys coach,  striding along the sidelines in a sharp suit and a fedora, barking out orders. And I have no doubt that more coaches will come along and, as part of their persona, decide they want to look sharp on the sidelines – so the suit’s not gone forever — but if you give people the choice between dressing formally or dressing in Nike or dressing in Brooks Brothers, 95 percent of the time they’re going to take the tracksuit every time. That’s science.

Thanks for your question,
Dean Russell Bell

[Editors note: Hockey coaches still wear suits. Another of the many reasons it’s the best sport around. EF]

Why is Golf Etiquette so Funny?

Dear Sports Fan,
Why do golfers take of their hats to shake hands? Why do they wear pants in the insane heat? In other words, why are there so many rules about golf etiquette, and what are they?

Dear Kat,
The short story, which is what I am going with here, is that golf is old and steeped in tradition. Many of these traditions started long ago in a much different social atmosphere. Taking your hat off or wearing pants no matter the weather today is not outside the bounds of the social mores across all of society tens of decades ago. For example, women wearing bathing suits that were more akin to a scuba wetsuit than the suits of today was not only accepted in the early 1900’s, but was the standard. It didn’t make sense to be draped in such a heavy garment at the beach in sweltering weather, but the pressure of societal influence was heavier than the physical burden of the outfit.
Another aspect to the discussion is the role that tradition plays in sports. History has always been and continues to be a highly important platform for fans. Considering the past success of your team and the great players that came before are compelling ways to honor your allegiance. Knowing the history is a demonstration of commitment. And whether it is right or not, level of commitment is often the measure of one’s seriousness about their team. To put it simply, tradition is important.
So let’s bring this back to golf and the question at hand. What’s with all the etiquette? Etiquette since the beginning has given golf its character. Things that aren’t absolutely necessary to the game, but add to the overall experience. Knowing the etiquette is a part of learning to play, it demonstrates that you know more than to keep your leading elbow straight and to keep your head down. Most rules are useful, like replacing a divot so the course quality is good for everyone or slower playing groups allowing faster playing groups to play through. And some rules are more about tradition, meant to maintain the strong character of the game and respect its history.
For a list of several standard rules of golf etiquette you can check out Wikipedia
Thanks for the question,
John DeFilippis