Hercules Or Hype: Do the Best Beards in Sports Give Athletes Superpowers?

by Allen Gil December 24, 2014

Hercules Or Hype: Do the Best Beards in Sports Give Athletes Superpowers?

Photo Credit: burpeezoid.com
“It feels like a cape, you can hide behind it, it empowers you,” says Dodgers pitcher J.P. Howell.

The overwhelming belief among athletes is that you go with what you think is working and if the beard makes you feel invincible then it's a keeper.

Perhaps in 20 years we’ll look back and wonder what the fuss was all about, but according to many top athletes, it’s not just a trend, it’s now a part of them and their persona.

And if you don’t believe that facial hair can have this kind of power over a man’s psyche, perhaps we should take a look back at history.

  • In the Middle Ages, touching another man’s beard was considered offensive and grounds for a duel;
  • The same rules still apply today—no one picks a fight with a bearded man;
  • Ancient civilizations regarded beards as a sign of honor;
  • Men with long beards were seen as wise and dignified; and
  • Otto the Great, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, swore by his beard when saying anything serious.
Urban Dictionary actually defines God’s Beard as:
“Something so awesome, no other words can describe it. The epitome of greatness. The Holy Grail of all things amazing. Divine in nature because of the sheer intensity with which its magnificence radiates outward.”

Now, that is a bit much, I’ll admit, but is there something behind the beard that makes an athlete feel more confident in their performance?

Maybe, maybe not, but like it or not, the beard has made a major impact in the world of sports… across the board.

Besides the fact that nothing says you’re a badass better than a powerful overbearing beard, there is something magical in that beard that brings out the best in some athletes.

Brett Keisel – NFL

hercules brett

The NFL has a number of athletes who rock the face fuzz but none better than, or as famously as, Brett Keisel.

  • With the most intimidating beard in all of NFL history, Keisel grows his chin armor most of the year and then shaves it off to raise money for the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

In February 2011, "Da Beard" was removed during a ceremony titled "Shear the Beard" in downtown Pittsburgh.

The event raised over $40,000 for the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The “Shear Da Beard,” charity event started with Keisel but has become an annual thing for the Steelers Nation as a whole.

To the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Keisel said he started growing his now infamous beard simply to change the team's luck, because it missed the playoffs the previous season.

  • To date, the annual event has raised over $100,000 as celebrity barbers take to the players' faces with sharp instruments — and “shear” delight.

Keisel refers to his beard as a "beautiful thing" and "the greatest beard of all time”.

The saying “Fear the Beard” started with Keisel and his famous facial coif. And because of its infamy, it has its own website, online store, as well as its own Facebook page and multiple Twitter accounts dedicated to the power of “Da Beard”.

The facial hair of a Viking and the heart of gold...

That my friends is a shining example of a powerhouse behind a badass beard.

James Harden – NBA

hercules harden

Baller James Harden of the Houston Rockets has a beard that has become something of a phenomenon all by itself.

  • With his beard in full swing after his sophomore year in college, Harden became the fifth player in PAC-10 history to lead the league in scoring.

And just like the biblical Samson’s hair gave him strength, Harden’s beard clearly has shifted him into overdrive.

By the time he joined the Oklahoma City Thunder, the righteous beard had made it ways onto

  • Building facades
  • Cake toppings
  • Tattoos
  • YouTube videos
  • A Footlocker commercial

Harden's beard has even had songs written about it. As the beard continued to grow and capture NBA fans' imaginations, the Thunder reached the NBA finals and Harden helped the USA win Olympic gold.

Playing for the Houston Rockets since 2013, the beard and the man behind it have not disappointed. 

To add to his ever growing list of accomplishments (pun intended), James and his famous follicle forest have now made their mark as one of the best players to use the “euro-step” move and not surprising, it’s impossible to defend.

  • According to the Business Insider Harden is averaging a league-high 26.9 points per game this season, and he leads the NBA in free throws attempted with 10 per game.

With his ability to finish at the basket or get to the line, he has become a nightmare for defenses. Harden, who is already a first-team All-NBA talent and all-world scoring machine, could be a potential league MVP, and help the Rockets become a legitimate NBA championship contender.

Proof in the beard? Hmmmm... I’d say so!

Brian Wilson – MLB

hercules wilson

Of course no legitimate beard list is complete without the inclusion of the fantastically strange and overwhelming mystical beard on the face of Brian Wilson.

  • In addition to a Mohawk haircut, Wilson began growing his famous long black beard for the Giant’s 2010 playoff run.
  • Although he’s never admitted to dying it, it is rumored that he uses shoe polish to keep the beard so dark and bold.

During the playoff run, Giants' fans began growing their own beards or wearing fake beards while chanting and holding up signs bearing the "Fear the Beard," motto.

Clearly Wilson has enjoyed a great deal of media attention during his career thanks to the beard with

  • numerous commercials,
  • the cover of Sports Illustrated,
  • a reality show called Life of Brian,
  • and appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Lopez Tonight.

With his oversized man-o-meter, tattoo covered arms and bizarre persona, Wilson is perfectly made for Hollywood and people just can’t get enough of him.

No doubt, Wilson has the best beard ever rocked in MLB history, and I am hopeful that the beard power will give him the leverage he needs right now.

According to NBC Sports, Wilson and his beard are back on the free agent market after the Dodgers released him December 19th, 2014.

Release the beard magic, Brian, and all will be just fine.

Travis Browne – UFC

hercules travis

"I feel like I'm bigger, stronger and faster than I have ever been before and I haven't even touched my potential yet." Says UFC heavyweight Travis Browne.

Speaking of his knockout of the night win over Alistair Overeem back in 2013, “The beard has its own power,” reveals Browne. “That night it helped me recover, get back to my feet, and knock Overeem out, for sure.”

Browne told Middleeasy.com that a razor hasn’t touched his face in over twelve years.

“Some people think that the beard-growing trend going around right now is just that - a trend,” he says. “While it may be for some, it's a way of life for me. I've currently been growing my beard since July 2013, and while sometimes it gets in my soup while I'm trying to eat, I love it and it's my companion and friend.”
  • Besides the fact that Browne clearly loves his crumb catcher and believes it brings him luck, also being sponsored by a beard grooming company surely brings him extra good mojo.

Browne is undoubtedly one the toughest and most feared heavyweights in the UFC. In 2014 at UFC 181, “Hapa’s” bearded chin took quite a beating by Brendan Shaub early in the first round, but Browne immediately turned the tables and pummeled Shaub getting a TKO at 4:50 in that very first round.

With that said, there may be reason why having a beard is considered a euphemism for possessing a granite chin… perhaps Shaub should take a note here…

a little chin fuzz does not conjure up the same power as a beard.

Mike Beltran – MMA Referee

hercules referee

Now if we are talking beard awesomeness in MMA, I’m sure you are wondering where is referee Mike Beltran on this list…

Well my friends, let me introduce you to one of the greatest mustaches in the world.

That’s right, you’re looking at a mustache, not a beard, although his navel length hybrid/mustache/beard/mutton chop masterpiece is the king of MMA facial hair.

Rich Froning – CrossFit

hercules fronig

As one of the fastest if not THE fastest growing sports, CrossFit now boasts some of the greatest bearded warriors today.

With all eyes on four-time champion Rich Froning it’s hard not to miss the bearded style that has become trendy among CrossFit athletes.

Owner of the clothing line BeardGod Apparel, Torin Simpson, says:

“A beard has the ability to increase your overall fitness level by 400%. If your beard is long enough, try trapping it under the bar in the front rack position: guaranteed PR on your front squat. On pull-ups, you only have to get your beard to the bar, so you’re sure to move much more efficiently. Who’s going to argue with that?”
  • Froning, who has been and named the world’s fittest man, started doing CrossFit in 2009 in his barn with his cousin.
  • It’s been said that Froning does up to eight workouts a day before the CrossFit games.

With the pressure of 200,000 live spectators as well as the world watching on his shoulders, it’s no wonder he feels the need to put in that much time at the gym.

According to Froning:

“CrossFit is a great fitness program, it works. Pick things up and put them down, run, [and] carry stuff. It's what our bodies were made to do—not sit on a machine and do single joint movements. Those are good things if that's what you want to do—it's better than sitting and doing nothing.”

Like it or not, I think he certainly deserves a spot on this list. Rich Froning is without a doubt an exemplary bearded warrior!

Garey Faulkner – Cincinnati Sports Fan/Legend

hercules V

And as an ode to all of these amazing athletes and their beard prowess, I would like to also celebrate the fans who have given their beards a celebrity status in support of their love for sports.

Most notorious is Garey Faulkner, who happens to be one of the most famous bearded faces in the world today.

  • He is an internationally recognized face of Cincinnati’s Bengals and Reds.
  • He has taken over 3 million photos with people in 3 years and has been featured in many media outlets including ESPN, Good Morning America, Sportscenter and published in Sports illustrated.
  • There is even a 20ft picture of him on the NFL stadium in Cincinnati.

Faulkner has made his way into record books because of the incredible ways he uses his beard and without a doubt he has one of the most colorful and creative uses of chin growth I have ever seen.

Through personal appearances and his Facebook fan page, he uses these creations to raise money for charity, re-homing animals…

And yet still remains a manly man.

So there you have it, my list of amazing beards and the athletes behind them.

Did I convince you that facial hair gives guys confidence and belief in the beard performance mojo? Perhaps not, but when I sit next to my husband and he begins to rub his beard on my cheek... all I can say is “aww, don’t stop!” I would bet that counts as having some mystical quality… be it better performance on the field/ court/ or mat or just getting your lady to swoon. Either way, you win every time.

In case you didn’t know, there is a gigantic and amazing beard community on Facebook that shares awesome beard pictures, stories and products that make our men into the bearded hotness we love.

A super special thank you goes out to Beards.org, Beard Appreciation Society, Beards and Tattoos, Beard Brothers, Playbeard, My Bearded Life, Choice Beard &Co., and so many others that shared our last article Why She Is Super Attracted To Your Beard.

Allen Gil
Allen Gil


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