The wait is over! The results for the World Beard and Moustache Championships, held last weekend in Carson City, Nevada, are in. Those long, sleepless nights agonizing over who this year's champions would be are over. No more will our family dinner conversations falter into silence as each of us drifts off into our own private musings over the virtues of the Handlebar as opposed to the Fu Manchu. I can finally pay attention to the pastor's homily in church again, and my husband will no longer have to look at me accusingly when our daughter's in bed and we have a few moments to ourselves, only for him to have to demand, "You're wondering if Willi Chevalier and his amazing three-tiered beard will be able to hold his title as Freestyle World Champion again, aren't you?"
I did wonder. And now that the event is over, the depression has had time to settle in. I am ashamed, because as a nation we seem don't seem to be able to hold our own when it comes to growing facial hair.
I know, you're telling me, "Alex, what are you thinking? From the event's inception in 1990, Bruce Roe was the only American to ever place in the World Championships! This year, a total of eleven Americans took twelve trophies! Compare that with Austria's three and Italy's two!" This is true, but I ask you to compare those numbers with Germany's thirty-two trophy sweep, taking well over half of the event's top honors. Clearly we have been focusing too hard on competing with Germany in the beer and sausage sectors, and have allowed our facial hair technology to fall sadly behind.
Perhaps it has something to do with growing more robust facial hair in a subconscious attempt to mask one's identity rather than be seen wearing lederhosen, but I would like to place the blame squarely on Title IV regulations. That's right. Because of the need for equal sports opportunities between male and female athletes, some of the small, less publicity friendly sports programs are getting cut from the roster. You just don't see Beard and Mustache Growing teams in colleges anymore, and with the budget cuts in the schools, you're not likely to see Varsity Beard and Mustache teams in the high schools anymore, either. This is a shame, because California in particular is missing out on a golden opportunity in this venue. The silver lining to our beleaguered and substandard educational system was that the number of held back students was starting to give our Frosh Beard and Mustache teams a distinct competitive edge. (Talk about "Hairy" Potter.) But thanks to poor execution of Title IV requirements, our wispy chin hairs are the laughingstock of Germans everywhere. Schools should be cutting funding from overrated sports like football and basketball to foster an appreciation of competitive facial hair growth. (Bring that one up at the next School Board or PTA meeting. Should liven things up a little. Just be prepared to move out of town and change your name.)
Instead of questionable role models like Kobe Bryant and O.J. Simpson, we could be holding up to our children heroes like Gary James Chilton of Sioux City, six-time beard champion of the Iowa State Fair. I'm sure that after all the hubbub created by the World Beard and Mustache Championships last weekend that we will be seeing a rash of commercials featuring this down-home American hero. He'll be in Nike shoe commercials, sprinting along with his beard flowing behind him, or driving some shiny new truck whose extended cab gives him plenty of room to drape his beard behind him so it doesn't get tangled up in the gear shift like in smaller cars. I wouldn't doubt that we'll even see the Coors Light Twins sporting goatees. (There's the solution to the Beard and Moustache Title IV woes.)
I'm not saying that winning is everything -- I don't want to see a Rogaine scandal rock this fledgling sport just as we are starting to make our international presence felt. But I am saying that if nothing else, pride for our country should drive us to do better. We should not be trapped in the stereotype of only dominating in the Handlebar Moustache divisions. We as Americans should be able to grow long, flowing beards to put the rest of the world to shame, not peep out from behind the points of our Dali moustaches in fear of the Mighty German Beard.
Where is ZZ Top when we need them?
On the web: www.worldbeardchampionships.com
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin the week of 11/06/03.
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