The Georgetown lacrosse team has been to the NCAA quarterfinals six straight years. The Hoyas have been to the quarters 10 of the last 11 years. It's an incredible run, and yet it's yielded only one Final Four appearance. "A semi-curse," is how senior defender Jerry Lambe described the quarterfinal blues.
Anyhow, it's playoff time again. The Hoyas are in the quarterfinals again, with Saturday's meeting with Johns Hopkins standing between them and the Final Four. Clearly, it's time to try something different. Clearly, it's time for the playoff beards.
"Give it a shot," Lambe said. "Why not."
And with Baron Davis out of the NBA playoffs, we all need some more beards to root for. Thing is, at this juncture, 10 days into the postseason, it's almost impossible to tell that the Hoyas are growing playoff beards. Based on the average growth levels, an outsider would think the playoffs started at about 11 a.m. this morning. While Lambe and Brendan Cannon were telling me about the beards, one teammate walked by who made Tom Brady look like Walt Whitman. "Pretty pathetic," Lambe admitted. The team's sports information representative, Mex Carey, didn't even know about the playoff beards until I began my investigative work.
"I shaved this morning, I had no idea," he said, as details began to trickle out. "I'm a little disappointed no one told me."
The point is, this whole thing was the brainchild of attacker Ricky Mirabito, whom Lambe described as "just a weird dude, just a real strange bird" but who has quite a lot of moxie for a redshirt freshman.
"When we were freshmen we were scared to look the seniors in the eyes," Cannon said, turning into Grandpa Simpson in front of my eyes. "These freshmen take a lot of liberties."
[For the record, not that this will surprise you, but Cannon is roommates with Big Denny Hannan, that Hoyas hoops fan who dressed like a parrot all those months ago.]
Anyhow, Mirabito doesn't have a hockey background or anything. He said his motives for the playoff beard plan were purely selfish.
"I can't grow any facial hair, so I figured if everyone else was growing facial hair maybe I could get some myself," he said. "Maybe they could cut it off and put it on me a little bit after we win."
And while there are plenty of other Hoyas who, like Mirabito, are sporting barren chins, there are a few standouts. Dan Vinson, for example, has "got a lot of grizzly going on," Mirabito promised. And another midfielder, Ryan Still, has a definite scruffy look, all the way down his neck, despite the official ruling that necks are allowed to be shaved.
"I'm an all-or-nothing guy," said Still, who has never had this much facial hair in his life and said he's already reached the discomfort stage. "I just want to rip it off. I don't know where to start, I don't know what to do, so I'm just going to let it all go."
As should be obvious, this thing has reached critical mass. At least one equipment manager has signed up. And while the players never said anything, even the assistant coaches are on board. Come to think of it, when I interviewed assistant Scott Urick this afternoon, he was looking a big unkempt.
"Now I'm thinking back, and it's just like a bad movie, you notice all the signs after the fact," agreed Carey, who has now pledged not to shave until this playoff run has ended.
I did track down Scott Urick later in the day, and he dismissed his own efforts. "This is two weeks work, it's pathetic," he said. "Ninety percent of the team has a better beard than I do."
Perhaps the Hoyas' beards will not singlehandedly topple Johns Hopkins, but players said that in addition to Mirabito's weirdness, this was more of a team unity thing, a sign that they enjoy being around each other and that they are willing to look a bit stupid together. So who knows what happens this weekend, but like Lambe said, why not?
"This has been a year of a lot of firsts," he said. "It's the first time we beat Maryland, the first time we beat U-Mass. at U-Mass., the first time we beat Princeton, first time we won in overtime in the playoffs. A lot of firsts. So I think if it's going to happen, if we're going to break this semi-curse, it might as well be right now."
Incidentally, I also asked if these playoffs had a theme, a slogan, something for fans to rally behind.
"Grow your neck beard?" Lambe suggested.