By Andrea Canales
think that with the Supporter's Shield safely in hand and with a star
playmaker named the Most Valuable Player of Major League Soccer's 2008
season, the Columbus Crew wouldn't bother being superstitious.
the club from Ohio was chasing its first title in thirteen years of
existence and the player who had sacrificed so much to come so far
weren't about to leave their fate to chance.
They had seen
what worked in the past and they knew the secret of the talisman that
had brought victory to every MLS team since 2005. That was the year
when the Los Angeles Galaxy claimed the title. The Houston Dynamo then
followed the same path to victory for two consecutive years.
Aware of the championship secret, the Crew complied with the sacrifice.
Many of the Columbus players stopped shaving.
is a uniquely American tactic, borrowed from hockey, to not shave until
one either loses or hoists the winning trophy. Midfielder Ned Grabavoy,
who played for the Galaxy in 2005, maintained that he was the one who
instigated the beard challenge to his teammates.
It worked out
better for some than others. Landon Donovan's beard at the the day of
the final match was patchy and slightly diseased-looking.
Brian Ching's facial hair looked even more sparse in the years to come
when Houston lifted the MLS Cup twice. It wasn't that Ching avoided the
playoff beard burden, but he had a long way to go to match the Grizzly
Adams look of his teammate Wade Barrett.
Considering that the
playoff beard tradition began with the New York Islanders, it's
interesting to note that it wasn't the New York team, the Red Bulls,
who followed this example.
One can understand the reluctance.
"It's itchy," said Crew winger Eddie Gaven. As if to underscore his
point, his hand crept to his neck.
notwithstanding, the track record is clear. Since 2005, the team with
more clean-shaven players in the MLS final has always lost.
course, the playoff beards scenario was a new one for Crew midfielder Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
The Argentine was unmoved and didn't really try to participate in that
aspect with his hirsute teammates. He couldn't argue with results, though, as the Crew did in fact
win the MLS Cup.
After their triumph, the Crew players headed for the
locker room. Some were celebrating. Others looked
around immediately for a razor.
Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of Goal.com USA.