No, not Mike Napoli – Richard Brody, of The New Yorker:
One of the beauties of the beard is that its lushness is polysemic, lending itself to an interpretive exuberance to match its flow.
A beard is a celebration of nature that brings appearance closer to that of untamed human animals—a Rousseau-esque gesture that was crucial to the age of Aquarius, a time when long-established norms of behavior collapsed and made public life a clearer expression of formerly unspeakable private desires. By contrast, the shaven and crew-cut athlete suggests a martial fury that is joyless—a grim, self-denying efficiency that may work in war but is exactly the opposite of the essence of baseball, which, for all its competitive ardor, is playtime. (And the over-all increasing regimentation and militarization of modern life has no more powerful, intimate symbol than the fanatical prevalence of depilation).
Roger Angell, objecting to the idea of unkempt beards rather than the peuce prose, only makes it worse:
How does it feel to wake up, night after night, in immediate proximity to a crazed Pomeranian or a Malamute or an Old English sheepdog stubbornly adhering to the once caressable jaw of the guy on the nearest pillow? Doesn’t it scratch? Doesn’t it itch? Doesn’t it smell, however faintly, of tonight’s boeuf en daube or yesterday’s last pinch of Red Man?
Boeuf an daube? Probably remnants of chowder.
Look: Beards need no highfalutin defense. They’re simply the default for most men. Do nothing and you’ll have a beard. At some point, you’ll need to trim it. Go to a barber who knows what he’s doing. That’s about it. Keep it as you would an English hedge. Tended from time to time but not fussed over. And if you see a debate in The New Yorker on their “Rousseau-esque gesturing,” roll your eyes and have a good chuckle.
(Hat tip: Amanda Hess. Photo: Mike Napoli’s magnificent manliness, by Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe via Getty Images. Dish Award glossary – explaining all our annual awards – is here.)