During his first visit with Tampa Bay area media Wednesday, new Bucs running back Giovani Bernard came clean.
Or more specifically, clean-shaven. Among the conversation pieces Bernard left behind in Cincinnati was the profound, polyester-era mustache conceived during quarantine and nurtured throughout his eighth and final season with the Bengals.
“I don’t know about most guys, but when I shave, I normally just do, like, random things with my facial hair,” he said.
“So I just kept the ‘stache and my wife looked at me and she said, ‘It looks kind of cool, I like it.’ So I just let it ride throughout the season, and then I took the team pictures, and the guys just fell in love with it. It hit social media, and I just felt like I couldn’t let it go.”
It was only in mid-January, when the bristles started interfering with his ability to breathe, that Bernard finally seized a razor and relented. But had he arrived in Tampa in all his whiskered splendor, he still would’ve been hard-pressed to match the most memorable collections of sports facial hair in area lip-sweater lore.
We decided to rank those collections. And trust us, shaving down the list was no easy task.
10. Colby Rasmus
Possibly the creepiest look on this list. During his cameo as a Rays outfielder (32 games in 2017), Rasmus elicited gasps (and perhaps nausea) when he shaved all his facial hair except the part covering his neck. “I just started growing it out and it doesn’t grow too good up here on my face,” Rasmus said upon arriving for spring training in 2017. “And I don’t like to get the bumps on my neck. It felt good to me.”
9. John Molchon
While this Bucs practice-squad guard was activated for only one game (Nov. 29 vs. the Chiefs) in his inaugural season last fall, the handlebar mustache he brandished for his official Bucs head shot is all-rookie caliber. Molchon, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Boise State, actually was a facial-hair chameleon of sorts in college, once sporting a mullet and goatee.
8. Luke Scott
This avid outdoorsman’s mutton chops remain far more memorable than his fleeting stint as a Rays would-be power hitter (.235 average, 23 home runs in 187 games). He does warrant huge props, however, for shaving them (as part of a head-shaving team gesture) during spring training in 2013 to help raise money for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
7. Radko Gudas
While playoff beards are synonymous with hockey players, this former Lightning defenseman and hip-check extraordinaire exhibited a lengthy one that earned its own Twitter account (@RadkoGudasBeard). “(Gudas) understands that 99 percent of the world can’t grow a beard like that,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said in 2014. “For him to flaunt it off, some of us are little bit envious.”
6. Old-school Bucs
The Bucs of the mid- to late-1970s were so resplendent in the shagginess of the day, we chose to condense them into one group. Wally Chambers was prominent in the fraternity, as was Council Rudolph and Jim Obradovich. But few possessed the bearded swag of Oklahoma-bred siblings Lee Roy and Dewey Selmon. We can only imagine the look made for some purgatorial training camps.
5. Carlos Valderrama
If this list focused on the best hairstyles in local sports lore, Valderrama likely would top it permanently — emphasis on perm. But the fact is, the former prolific Tampa Bay Mutiny midfielder complemented his frizzy locks with a profound ‘stache, the likes of which have been sported by many an adult-movie star.
4. Bucco Bruce
Yes, we’re including fictitious facial hair on this list. For better or worse, this original Bucs logo (winking pirate with the handlebar mustache, knife clenched between teeth) remains synonymous with the franchise, not to mention an object of ridicule. Yet a hearty chunk of the fan base can’t wait to see Tom Brady in a creamsicle jersey with Bruce beaming on the side of his white helmet.
3. Wade Boggs
Even as an original Devil Ray in the twilight of his hall-of-fame career, Boggs kept the Magnum P.I.-era mustache that accompanied him for practically all of his 3,010 career hits. Baseball-Reference.com once ranked his mustache as the third-best in baseball history.
2. Hulk Hogan
The most iconic horseshoe mustache in sports-entertainment history belongs to this Robinson High alumnus once known as Terry Bollea. Throughout his 40-plus years in the public consciousness, from power-slamming Andre the Giant to piledriving his reputation with scandals both sordid and controversial, Hogan’s trademark bleached bristles have remained intact.
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Pardon our dreadful pun (we can’t help ourselves), but this dude won by far more than a whisker. The Civil War-general facial motif adopted by the journeyman Bucs quarterback, coupled with his two mesmerizing starts (eight TDs, one pick) in place of Jameis Winston to open the 2018 season, made Fitzpatrick a fleeting folk hero in these parts. When he complemented the beard by arriving at the postgame podium in DeSean Jackson’s threads following a 27-21 upset of the Eagles, “FitzMagic” had overtaken Tampa.
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