During the Caps broadcast on Sunday night, the cameras were drawn to one particular Caps fan thanks to the perfect “O” and “8” tribute to Alex Ovechkin worn in the fan’s facial hair. The artistic beard belongs to Eric Brooks, formerly of Rockville, now spending his time in Fort Collins, Colo. The 24-year old assistant brewer has been growing his facial hair for two years, and it has become a part of his identity.
“My nickname is Beardo,” said Brooks, who work for Colorado’s Black Bottle Brewery. “They said if I shave it, I’ll get fired.”
About a year ago, Brooks decided to take his beard to the next level after watching the reality show “Whisker Wars.” He began competing in facial hair competitions, and a month ago won first place in the freestyle category in a competition in Boulder.
“It’s basically anything goes, as far as facial hair,” he said, of competing in freestyle. “You can add props, you can style it up, you can color it, you can do whatever you want.”
Brooks won with a pattern of intricate loops held together by Got2B Glued hairspray, which he says is the favorite in the facial hair community. The hairy hobby is a labor of love. There are rarely cash prizes for the individual categories and the contestants pay for travel to competitions out of pocket.
“Mainly we go for camaraderie,” said Brooks, who also creates beard-themed art. “It’s like having a second family.”
Which brings us to Sunday night, and Brooks’s decision to pay tribute to Ovechkin during the Caps game in Denver.
“I was actually going to put ‘OVI’ in my beard, but I was running low on hairspray,” Brooks said with a laugh. “So I figured I’d represent Washington by putting his number in my face.”
It’s not the first time he has used his facial hair to show his loyalty for Washington sports. Before moving to Colorado last year, he was caught by cameras at a Nats game sporting a red “W” in his beard. He drew the attention of the television cameras again on Sunday night, making a brief appearance on screen during the broadcast.
“The Avs fans and the Caps fans alike were taking pictures and giving me high-fives,” said Brooks, who enjoyed his time as a celebrity fan.
Brooks is taking a small break from competing to save money, but hopes to return to Austin in February, where last year he came close to tying for third place. But even without a win, the facial hair enthusiast told me that his beard comes with its own built-in reward.
“I love putting smiles on people’s faces.”