When the calendar ticks past October and the final shreds of all dignity and dietary pretense are discarded in the garbage below 20 empty Snickers wrappers, the countdown to the end of all dignity and dietary pretense in swimming pools of gravy begins.
More importantly, it’s time to grow a mustache.
November is Movember, of course, that month when men — manly men — grow mustaches and facial hair to raise awareness for men’s issues, like prostate cancer and some men’s inability to grow mustaches or facial hair.
The follicle frivolity is all for a good cause — learn more or donate here — and it’s also good to celebrate those athletes who celebrate Movember all year long. For the ‘stache is not a fad nor a gimmick, but a life choice for some. Handlebar, pencil-thin, twirled whiskers, and more, these are the 21 people in sports making Rollie Fingers, Scott Player, and other esteemed mustache pioneers and perfectionists proud.
But before we begin…
3. Dishonorable Mention: Philip Rivers
Save yourself the energy of thinking about Philip Rivers’ ill-conceived attempt at a ‘stache and instead spend your time seeking out those who best poke fun at Philip Rivers’ ill-conceived attempt at a stache, which looks like it came out of the defect bin at the costume store.
4. 21. The NBA Mustache
NBA mustaches are a dying, almost dead breed. Adam Morrison and Michael Jordan just about made that official. Sure, there’s a Spencer Hawes every once in awhile, but these days the upper-lip torch is carried by a lackluster group: Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, etc. Wherefore art thou, Kurt Rambis, Reggie Theus, Larry Legend, James Edwards? And can someone please hire Stan Van Gundy already to bring back some mustache legitimacy to the league?
5. 20. Jason Kelce
Alright, one exception for a recent Movember convert, if only because Kelce’s version defies both gravity and time.
6. 19. Brian Hartline
Say what you will about the Miami receiver’s endeavor into ‘stacheland, but Hartline started before November and gave fans something to love besides that random 253-yard game he had against Arizona earlier this year. And unlike his statistical production, this ‘stache is consistently great.
7. 18. Byron Scott
Grayer than back in his Showtime days, the Cavs’ coach’s steadfast refusal to take a razor to his upper lip is as admirable as his reputation for running training camps that leave players puking.
8. 17. Eric Wedge
A good manager? Probably not, but Wedge is a force in the facial hair department. Over any given season, he’ll give you just about every style known to man. The Swiss Army Knife of mustaches, if you will.
9. 16. Cal Clutterbuck
Woe is a world without the NHL, mainly because hockey brings sports the manliest, burliest mustaches. They beat up other mustaches, and then they punch them again. Clutterbuck’s facial hair is a staple of the league, and I like to think that even without a season, he’s sporting it somewhere in Europe at this very moment.
10. 15. Mike Holmgren
He has a job, for now. And where new Browns president Joe Banner will exceed Mike Holmgren in nearly all respects, Banner lacks a mustache, which Holmgren has been rocking for years. The walrus, tried and true in a small enclave of the NFL, has a slot in a bank vault next to his Super Bowl rings.
11. 14. Romeo Crennel
Romeo embarked on a decision 10 years ago on whether or not to shave his Grade A walrus tribute. He has yet to decide. Fun fact: I used to wait tables at a steak joint where Crennel would slurp down ribs (slowly). He always managed to avoid getting rib sauce entangled in the hair.
12. 13. Eric Berger
The Tribe minor leaguer deserves applause, praise, and probably a promotion to the big leagues for twirling a Rollie Fingers-quality masterpiece without irony or fanfare.
13. 12. Kevin Mattison
Sure, he only played five games for the Marlins last year, but Mattison gives guys like Eric Berger hope. Your numbers may not be great, but with dedication to your facial hair, anything is possible.
14. 11. Carl Pavano
You might have recently been informed that not only is Carl Pavano still alive, and not only is his right arm still somehow attached to his body, but that he broke out a classic mustache worthy of the Tom Selleck seal of approval with the Twins. No fuss, no muss. Here’s to warm thoughts that Pavano can make it back for just one more season. All of Minnesota would be better off for it.
15. 10. Paul MacLean
Paul MacLean’s mustache just got every girlfriend and wife of every Ottawa Senators player pregnant.
16. 9. Andy Reid
The King Walrus himself, Reid’s ranking far surpasses his Walrussian counterparts simply for his willingness to let it grow sometimes, dangling over the lip. Commitment to unkemptness.
17. 8. Jeff Fisher
Who else arrives in a new city on a new team and immediately has their mustache become an iconic rallying cry and ticket-pricing gimmick? Fans in the stands rock fake mustaches! That has to be worth something. More importantly, Fisher shows an innate understanding that dramatic angles only elevate the stache. (Note: Fisher has been wearing a goatee as of late. I hope his placement on this list will remind him of his roots.)
18. 7. Shahid Khan
Shahid Khan has a mustache. A twirly mustache. Oh, and he’s rich beyond belief and owns the Jacksonville Jaguars. But that’s secondary information. Ask 60 Minutes. Side note: Before NFL owner meetings can begin, every other owner has to give it a twirl. Jerry Jones has his assistant do it.
19. 6. Mike “Fluff” Cowan
This may look like a caddy, but it’s actually your grandfather, or the guy who runs the hardware store down the street, or Teddy Roosevelt. Regardless, Ron Swanson owes him royalty checks.
21. 4. John Axford
Axford’s upper-lip majesty took on a life of its own, and though he recently grabbed the shears and regrettably took off one of MLB’s best mustaches, he demonstrated with gusto and longevity just how important hair is to being written about on the Internet.
22. 3. Jim Joyce
Jim Joyce has done three notable things in his life, by my count. One was bad. (Costing a pitcher a perfect game.) One was great. (Saving a woman’s life.) And one was timeless. (His mustache.)
23. 2. Ron Washington
Ron Washington was wearing mustaches before you thought they were cool, before they were uncool, all the way back when they were cool the first time. Iconic in every way. No one — NO ONE — currently employed in baseball deserves a lifetime achievement award for mustachery more than this guy.
24. 1. George Parros
Did you know George Parros once shaved his mustache only to have new teammate Joe Sakic demand he bring it back because he wanted to see the famed follicles it in person? Well, that happened, and Parros did it. Putting the public and the mustache ahead of yourself is true-blue altruism. It’s also hockey. (Miss you, NHL.)
Vince Grzegorek is a staff writer for Cleveland Scene. He tweets here.