The Beard Knows

I get around to all the major sports, but I have a soft spot for tennis. Probably because I don’t exactly fit in. Athletes who wear me tend to exude a primal toughness not generally associated with such a refined pastime. It wasn’t until the 70s when I got my first real break with Borg. Newk and Stan had already introduced a couple of my push broom cousins to the game, and Tiriac sported that wicked horseshoe, but Bjorn went half-Galifianakis. The guy had an angelic face, but when it came to the majors he turned Viking. He wouldn’t shave for the full two weeks, unless he lost first, which wasn’t often. We did our best work at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. What a glorious time it was to be on that man’s face.

After Borg I had a little trouble finding work in tennis. There were always openings in hockey, but the NHL playoffs are interminable and the groupies just didn’t compare. It was like going from touring with The Stones to RUSH. And getting slashed with a flat piece of wood is hell on the follicles. It took some major sunshine blowing, but I did manage a brief stint with Connors. It didn’t last long; the guy was way too intense. Aw hell, he was an asshole. He blamed me for every little problem – low 1st-serve percentage, leg cramps, a busted flush. Totally unreasonable to work with.

I thought in the early 90s I could strike up a deal with Sampras. The guy was hatched with five-o’clock shadow. Rumor was after three days growth he could tear a towel in half with his chin. But he was just too clean-cut to go the distance. So I pulled a 180 and partnered with Agassi. Andre and I worked well together. The guy lacks coverage on his dome, but his face is pure alpaca. We had a few special runs, the last time back in ’99. I had long conversations with coach Gilbert (plenty hirsute in his own right) before the French that year and I promised magic if I was brought on board. We ruled Paris. Then Agassi found religion (Steffi) and we parted ways.

Since Agassi I’ve been mostly a non-factor. Maybe what I hear about today’s players is true: they’re a little soft. They opt for the pretty boy, metro image. GQ over SI. James Blake and I did some damage about five years ago, but we never got to the promised land. Tipsarevic and Tursunov will check in from time to time. Good guys with plenty of quirk, but my stubble barely reaches irritable before they’re stamping their passports. Just to be around the game I slummed with that talentless caveman and Billie Jean on the Geico commercials. Total waste of my skills. I felt like DeNiro doing Little Fockers, or Mariano shagging fly balls.

I’ve approached Annacone about working with Federer, but there’s a lot of hesitation of their end. Something about how I would dull the pronounced contours of his face. Whatever. Old-timer is probably worried I’ll come in gray. Nadal? Wouldn’t even return my calls. Total control freak anyway. If playing on a blue clay court can “destabilize” his preparations for Roland Garros, one stray whisker would have him scribbling tantrums in his journal. Murray wants to work with me, but I’ve seen fuller facial hair on the New York Liberty. Lendl hates me anyway. Still blames me for collapsing against Borg in the ’81 final, but it’s misplaced rage; I was working with Stallone on Nighthawks at that time. It took Lendl a couple more years, but he finally sprouted hair where he needed it most.

I haven’t given up though. I’ve got a juicy three episode walk-on for Game of Thrones on the table, but I’m not ready to accept. Not until I hear back from Marian. His charge looks like a born bearder. He’s never won Roland Garros and Nadal seems to have turned the tables on the dirt as of late. Novak could use a thick piece of facial luck to make some history. I think it’s time to try his coach again and double-down on my offer.

“Hello, Marian…Yeah, it’s me. I’m checking back with you about my proposal…What’s the hurry? When I know something’s right I want to make sure it happens…No, he’ll look great. Nothing like Vlade Divac…Too disheveled? Not a chance. Besides, I hear he’s wearing Uniqlo now; he could use a few rough edges…I understand you don’t want to shuffle a winning hand, but here’s the thing: I think this kid can win it all and I want to put my money where his face is. He’ll be the Chuck Norris of Roland Garros. What do you say?”

Not ready to commit. Wants me to check back in with him after the first round. But I can’t wait around until then. I’ve got Lannisters to kill. Novak’s on his own. If he comes up short again, he should look no further than his smooth cheeks for blame.

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2 Responses to The Beard Knows

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Beard:
    I am hurt and saddened that you failed to mention us and the extent of our close partnership in this piece. I feel I have been more than welcoming and can only conclude that you are ashamed or embarrassed. I may not be as high profile as the others you cite here but what I lack in rank I more than make up for in intensity.
    Forever yours,
    Mikhail Youzhny

  2. The Baumer says:

    Mikhail,
    True, we partnered up for a while, and had our moments. The Davis Cup comes to mind. So does palling around with Safin (wink, wink). Perhaps I am too in awe of stars. My apologies. But you did go kind of crazy on me and your noggin. No need to rehash the head bashing incident. You may call it intensity, but I was spooked. If I want blood on my whiskers I’d go back to kosher butchering. Maybe that’s why I’ve chosen to block the whole thing out.
    Good luck the rest of the way.

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