Dateline – Friday June 29, 2012 – Green Bay, Wis – After three events of the eight-event season Bassmaster Elite Series Angler AaronMartens was off to his worst season in his career. With finishes outside of the money in three consecutive events, the normally ultra-consistent Martens was in a tail spin and sat in 79th place in the season standings. That’s when it started. The normally baby-faced Martens showed up to the fourth event, Douglas Lake, with a new look – facial stubble.
The New York Islanders are credited for starting the hockey trend of growing beards during the playoffs. Hall of Famer Denis Potvin says that the Islanders of the 1980s would “play four games in five nights in the first round and it was just something that kind of happened.” (a)
The hockey player facial hair trend is now practiced universally by hockey players from the high school ranks on up.
In late 1990’s the Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston and Larry Johnson led New York Knicks joined the beard hype. The beards led to several good playoff runs, but no world titles.
Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, in his first season, rallied his team from an average start of 7-5 and into the playoffs. Sporting his playoff beard the second year pro secured pittsburgh’s fifth Superbowl victory. Following the game Roethlisberger was clean shaven by David Letterman on the late show.
In 2010, the San Francisco Giants were led by powerhouse closer Brian Wilson, who sported a deep black ZZ-Topstyle beard on the way to their World Series Championship. Other players joined their “Fear the Beard” campaign during their playoff by also growing beards.
“It wasn’t in my mind to copy the hockey guys, the San Francisco Giants or any other athlete. It was more from my busy schedule and just not really taking the time to shave,” explained Martens.
Martens got off to a fantastic start on Douglas Lake. Holding the lead on day one and eventually finishing back in form in third place.
“After Douglas Lake everyone kept telling me, ‘It’s the beard’ and ‘it look’s good, keep it. So I kept it for the next event on Toledo Bend.”
Following the Douglas Lake event Martens continued on his move up the season standing with a solid 28th place finish on Toledo Bend. “Two for two checks with facial hair, so I figured ‘if its not broken, why fix it.’”
Next up was the Mississippi River and a fifth place finish.
One week later, Green Bay, and Martens set the day one pace with 20 pounds of bass on a tough tight fishing event. “I don’t think I will be shaving the beard anytime soon,” Martens giggled.
It looks as though the latest trend in fishing isn’t the Alabama Rig, long lining or any other new technique – its facial hair. Who’s next KVD, Skeet, Ike or Brody Broderick.
Trend setter or not, one thing is for sure, as Martens’ beard grows longer his season standings get higher. Currently he’s jumped to 14th for the 2012 season and is in solid position to make his fourteenth Bassmaster Classic.
a. Ian Walker, Montreal Gazette (2011-04-13). “The Playoff Beard Mystique”
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Will King Kong be next?