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Hair Today, Low Ratings Tomorrow January 31, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, Sports.

For years, it has been the bastard child of sports. Baseball gets the type of money that makes Bill Gates weep with jealousy and a history older and deeper than the wing of the Smithsonian that nobody visits because it doesn’t have Fonzie’s jacket. Football gets the visceral, testosterone uber males and the hope of fat males everywhere who think, “If that heavy set, sweaty pile of chubb could be an ‘athlete,’ so could I.”. Basketball has more street cred than a rapper born in a crackhouse atop a bed of bullets and crumpled up copies of the liner notes from “Straight Outta Compton.” But hockey. Hockey has very little to bring to the table. Sure, it is widely viewed by many as “soccer on ice” or “little more than a series of fights with a confusing, rule filled game around it.” It has the history, but in true American style, most of it involves French Canadian names and Eastern European goons, so we pay no attention to it. Maybe the arenas are too cold; maybe losing a year of the sport was too strong for it to overcome. No, says I. Hockey subscribes to a little known theory of sports. A long-standing corollary I like to call “Prell-Nair Theory of a Sports Success.” Basically stated, for the people like me who thought math class was nothing more than a massive roadblock on the way to gaining a liberal arts diploma, the theory means “The less hair average on your players, the more successful your sport will be.” Don’t believe it? Let us go to the theoretical evidence.

Take baseball. In it’s early days, when men in straw hats banging newspapers in their hands rapidly while screaming ‘Huzzah,” the game was the only show on the block. It was America’s game. And the hair was short. Not just short, but flattop city. In fact, there is a little known myth that the lineup for the 1958 Yankees once moonlighted as the entire dining room tables for a Saturday evening at Toots Shor’s. And with these bevy of buzzcuts came a game that enthralled our nation and made every child want to hit like Mantle, run like Mays and use a little Dippity Doo and their almost bald hairlines. Yet when did it all go south? That’s right…in the seventies. Men let their hair grow from out side their caps. Afros, like the tiny little steam clouds that form over Yosemite Sam’s head when he gets mad, jutted from beneath the caps of our beloved men. And labor disputes? The ones that threatened the fabric of the game? All after hair began to pop out. Any coincidence that the Yankees hold more championships than any else, as well as great attendance, and have a stringent “Keep You Hair Clean” policy. Oh, I think not.

Football is a different beast. Again, buzzcuts were the norm for most everyone. And the helmet itself is almost like an instant balding machine. Yet the game is stronger now than it has ever been. How is that so when suddenly every defensive back is sporting dreads and looks like Predator is out their covering your wide receiver? Because the corollary takes into account “average league hair.” And yes, there has been a sudden uptick in the dreads and the weird Thor look that tight ends sport nowadays (Note to Jeremy Shockey: Nobody liked Thor in the comics, except for a few Swedish guys in Wisconsin and the chick from Adventures in Babysitting.) But the average hair quotient has been kept at bay by the massive amount of quarterbacks and linemen who have stayed on well past their prime and have succumbed to Helmet Baldness. With every creaky kneed thrower, the game gains in popularity because they are balancing out the hair with their chrome domes and Ron Howard impersonations. So when someone says it’s bad for the game if you hang around too long, it’s mathematically opposite…how cool is that? (You see, math isn’t just for nerds…it’s for geeks too!)
Basketball is summed up easily. Shaved heads everywhere. From every stringy haired Eastern European shooter or strange Afro/cornrow/Afro/weird Bob’s Big Boy style alternating center, there are more than enough slick power forwards and speedy guards who have followed in Michael Jordan’s footsteps. And not in his playing style, but in the fact that the man’s head was cleaner than a Tim Allen movie. It’s why Bird and Magic were so good for the league. Enter one guy who borrowed the wig from Michael McKean in Spinal Tap offset by a young magic, who the gods of hair didn’t smile too kindly upon (though the weird early eighties Rosey grier moustache almost put a kibosh on the whole damn thing!)

Which brings us to hockey. Huge in the fifties. Sure, they were only six teams and fighting was not only encouraged, but (little known fact) all sticks came complete with a bayonet and a little vial of arsenic you could use when that blueliner got a little too close. But it was big. People packed arenas in a time when AC meant a dirty little city in the couth of Jersey and not the wonderful machine that keeps us cool but turns our nasal passages into acrid deserts. And even when the league expanded to cities like L.A. and Atlanta, cities that barely gave the ice in your gin and tonic time to stay solid, it still flourished. But things went south sometime in the mid to late 80’s. And why? The Mullet.

One would think this boil on the ass of hair history could and would never inspire an entire sport. It came out of nowhere and was unnoticed at first. Our country was into mullets back then. We grooved on its dual statement of party time and serious business. Surely, this was what the NHL saw great about it. We’re fun and serious…watch us! So the NHL expanded far as we embraced the mullet. They set up shop in the South where the mullet was a requirement for all people who could grow them. They plastered their mulleted boys everywhere, having their hair blow in the breeze like a bad 80’s hair band video. But Billy Ray Cyrus did for mullets what Rick Dees did for disco: turn a phenomenon into a water cooler joke. So suddenly America shied away from the mullet and with it, all things mullet-centric. Thus we tuned out hockey.

Yet the damage had been done. Soon, there was no mullet poster boy in hockey. Yet here comes Jaromir Jagr. He was European. Maybe he didn’t get the memo. Maybe he lived in Europe where they got American pop culture a few years too late (I hear they are loving Titanic in Sweden right now!) Whatever the case, he inspired an entire generation of young European hockey players to capture speed and skill in their hair. Average hair levels across Europe went up (After all, Europe is just like the South.but with no barbecue.) And the players bombarded the rinks with stringy locks and ringlets that hung from their helmets like limp seaweed. And the theory took effect. Too much average hair and our country tunes out. Hockey struggled to find a way out but the damage was done. Even after mullet loving players shorn their Samson like locks, the people didn’t come back. For fear. Fear that again they would be party’s up front, but some “business” in the rear.

So know hockey sits, the damage done. And still we have young Russians and Finns joining the league with locks that would make Crystal Gayle weep in envy. And with each strand, the ratings drop further and further. Heck, the recent All Star Game was beat by a show that featured a man sitting in a chair and flowing hot air. You know it better as E! Live with Ryan Seacrest.

Can hockey save itself? If it starts making hair lengths mandatory and short, will we as a country return? I don’t know. But the Beastie Boys said it best. We’ll kick you out of our homes if you don’t cut that hair. And we should listen to them. Cause they’ve got mad hits like they were Rod Carew.

Who, uncoincidentally, had short hair.



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