Monday, March 13, 2006

Class, Mustaches and the Braves

And yes, this is my entry for the year end blog awards' "Post Title of the Year".

So the other day Lt. Douche, JMirarmtattoo and I were talking about the Braves (the Schuerholz book stuff) and the good Lieutenant suggested something that should've been a no brainer a long time ago.

Chipper Jones should grow a mustache.

Seriously, he's the perfect candidate for one. He's from Florida. His tabloid stories demand a stache. Oh. And he's a professional baseball player.

And that made me think that the rest of the Braves need mustaches too. Seriously. Mustaches are huge these days, but the shark has not yet been jumped. Plus, the Yankees don't allow facial hair, and anything that separates the Braves from the evil empire is a huge plus. There's no doubt in my mind that the young Braves would embrace the mustache movement. In fact, I passed word on to the Wrangler, who has tried to pass on the word to the guys he knows on the team.

But then JMirarmtattoo interrupted the brainstorm with a rude idea. He suggested that growing mustaches would throw off the mojo of the team, and cost them the division for the first time since 1990. The LT and I thought the opposite, namely, that maybe mustaches would finally put the Braves over the top and win a second World Series. And that got me thinking some more...

The most exciting Braves teams in history were the 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1995 teams. Those teams had many many many more mustaches and mulletts than recent Braves teams have had. Don't believe me? Let's look at the facts:

Recent Braves Facial Hair:
Smoltz: full beard (more on this in a second)
Mike Hampton: goatee
John Thompson: Utterly disgusting mustache (which I whole heartedly endorse).

Early 90's and 1995 Braves Facial Hair (and mulletts - more on this later):
John Smoltz: Yes, he has a beard now. But back then, when he just hurled and he was certifiably nuts. Way awesome back then.
Rick Mahler: Nasty mustache
Juan Berenguer: Marioesque. The epitome of an awesome stache.
Marvin Freeman: The upper lip shade.
Alejandro Pena: Great stache.
Jeff Parrett: Full beard
Jeff Reardon: beard, but quality
Steve Bedrosian: Top notch beard
Mark Wohlers: King of Mullettania.
Kent Mercker: Mullett was great and oily once.
Tom Glavine: His mullett is Cooperstown worthy.
Sid Bream: You already guessed this. The epitome of a Braves moment, and there's a key stache.
Rafael Belliard: little, but stachy.
Jeff Blauser: Yes, he had a Panama City whispy one way back in the day.
Brian Hunter: Holy crap this was a great mustache.
Vinny Castilla: when he first came up, totally stached out.
Ron Gant: Oh yeah he's stachin'.
Otis Nixon: kind of a Bill Campbell stache, but definitely counts.
Lonnie Smith: Stachetacular.
Ryan Klesko: known for his Piazzagoat, but he's sported a stache and a fantastic mullett at times.
Mark Lemke: beard at times. Kind of odd facial hair at times.
Luis Polonia: great stache.
Mike Devereaux: Tremendous stache.
Marquis Grissom: Awesome stache.
Dwight Smith: decent stache. Looks kind of like Eddie Murphy in Vampire in Brooklyn.
and finally...
Fred McGriff: I freaking defy you... I dare you not to bust out laughing next time you see a Tom Emanski defensive drills commercial. Yes, the mesh hat is hilarious, but focus on the stache. Its immaculate 90 degree southbound turn. Its perfectly groomed opulence. McGriff, who set the Braves on fire in 1993, is the paragon of a spectacular mustache.

So look at the rosters. Back when baseball in Atlanta was awesome and exciting, there were mustaches all over the field. Though the accomplishments of the Braves the last decade are impressive, there's a definite feeling like the fans are watching men at work, instead of guys playing a game. And that's where the idea of class comes into it.

Now, here I recognize that perception is a personal thing, and influenced by externalities, like media coverage. But the early Braves and the recent Braves seemed to me to be very different from one another. I keep repeating the word seem, because I don't think the players are in actuality fitting to the images I'm talking about.

The early Braves seemed to be working class heroes. Guys unafraid to get their uniforms dirty, guys who were those stereotypical "has beens and never-will-bes". The stadium fit the image too - the launching pad was mundane, kind of dirty. And yes, their haircuts and facial hair added to that image. They looked like hard working, blue collar guys. The kind of guys who if they weren't playing ball, they'd be fixing your car (and I think Wohlers actually did that for a while).

Today's Braves seem completely different. They're white collar. One friend, PA, called them a "Lexus Level" team. And it's absolutely correct. The stadium, while cleaner and with better sightlines and ammenities, is kind of sterile and inoffensive. The players carry themselves with absolute professionalism. And it's helped us, perhaps more than anything else, win 14 consecutive awarded titles. And yes, the facial hair and haircuts reflect this image too. And it isn't as fun.

The fans respond to the players, and probably the players respond to the fans too. And I think the fans would prefer the supposed blue collar players more. I think there's an incentive to root for players who are "more like you", and though most season ticket holders and luxury box owners aren't blue collar, the people who are the zeitgeist for a town are the cab drivers, the construction workers, the people you see all over the place. And in a way, I have a feeling like the team has directed its energies towards the stuffedshirts so much that the masses have kind of felt left out. Or they've focused their interests elsewhere, like the Falcons, who have placed a lot of emphasis on getting the whole city involved.

And the great thing about last year's Braves team was that with the influx of young players, the city kind of had a chance to get reintroduced to the team. Sort of, recenter the image of the team. Francouer, Davies, McCann, Boyer, etc. These guys were from around here. Most came from public schools around the city. They actually were like a lot of us, or our kids. They didn't bring with them the image that free agents tend to bring with them.

And that's also why I think the young guys should start growing mustaches. They should embrace the fact that Atlanta, and really the South, is born from the working class. Reintroduce the region to players who we all can relate to.

And if Francoeur, Boyer, McCann, Davies started growing mustaches, I just know the excitement would be infectious. Last year their excitement was infectious, and you saw a spring in Andruw and Chipper's steps. I know if you started seeing staches on the young guys, Chipper would throw one on too (and I seriously think a stache would take him into A-Rod/Jeter superstar territory). And Smoltz would shave off the beard and leave the stache. And maybe you'd see a McGriff like stache on Andruw (which would be sweet). LaRoche, Giles, Kelly Johnson, all those guys could grow an incredible stache. And it would be fun to watch.

So start growing them guys. Seriously. It'd be good for the team, good for baseball, good for the South. Yes. Mustaches. Join the movement.