The word “nasty” has a lot of different connotations. It’s become an oft-used adjective in the baseball lexicon, as many a commentator has used it to describe a particularly sharp curveball or any other exceptional breaking ball that a pitcher has in his repertoire. In another sense, the word can be used to describe an athlete’s attitude or demeanor, and it is often vital that linemen in the NFL play with a nasty streak, or that NHL enforcers are able to bring some level of nastiness to the ice. And, of course, the word can be used to describe something that is just plain disgusting.
When it comes to athletes and their facial hair, the word nasty can be applied in any number of the aforementioned ways. There are beards in the world of sports that are so unkempt that it would not be surprising to learn that it is the home to a small family of rats or some other vermin or varmint, nasty in the sense that the beard is considered to be more than just a bit repulsive. Then there are other beards that are nasty in the same way that a 12-6 curveball is nasty, and these beards are the reason that sales of razors and shaving cream have been steadily plummeting in the sports world recently.
The following 15 athletes are therefore representative of all possible meanings of “nasty.” Some of these athletes have beards that make them intimidating to opponents while also making them completely repellent to women, while others on this list have beards that are nasty in the sense that it wouldn’t be surprising that they have had change dropped into their coffee cups while out of uniform by citizens intent on helping the less fortunate.
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15 Daniel Norris
The Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect travels to Spring Training in and lives out of his 1978 Volkswagen camper van, stopping at various surf spots along the way to the team’s camp in Dunedin, Florida. He sports a long beard while living out of the van, and he keeps it trim using the razor-sharp edge of a hatchet. The beard, the van and the lifestyle are all in keeping with Norris’s nonconformist ideals, and the left-handed pitcher has real talent to boot – a mid-90s fastball and an average of 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors in 2014.
14 Brett Keisel
Keisel’s beard perfectly suits the Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion, and it has gained so much notoriety that it has its own name (“Da Beard”), Facebook account and Twitter account. Keisel has used his nasty beard to not only strike fear in his opponents but to also raise money for charitable organizations through an annual event called “Shear the Beard.” Keisel and his beard are both currently free agents, as the longtime Pittsburgh defensive end was recently released by the team.
13 Abel Xavier
Xavier has moved on to the coaching ranks now, but his beard during his playing days was nothing short of legendary and deserves proper recognition now and forever. Though there were many different iterations of facial hair arrangements, Xavier, now the coach of S.C. Farense, is probably best remembered for the bleach-blonde cornrows-and-mohawk combo that also saw his goatee and sideburns similarly dyed. As a coach, Xavier now sports a clean-shaven look but has maintained his famous dye job while stalking the sidelines.
12 Jayson Werth
The Washington Nationals outfielder is known for his long hair and scraggly beard, a look that has led the Nationals to try a promotion this season in which they will give out Jayson Werth Chia Pets. This will not be the first time that the team has taken advantage of Werth’s signature look, as the team gave away Jayson Werth garden gnomes last season, a promotion so popular that Anthony Rendon will get the gnome treatment this year. Werth’s beard has its own Twitter account, and it has earned Werth nicknames like “The Wolf of First Street.”
11 Joe Beimel
Beimel’s beard-and-long-hair combination makes him look like the kind of guy who would somehow find a way to injure himself in a bar before an important playoff game. Which is fitting, since that exact scenario played out well before Beimel began sporting his beard while he was still with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In New York for a playoff series against the Mets, Beimel cut his hand on a piece of broken glass in a bar, forcing the Dodgers to remove him from their playoff roster. At the time, Beimel was one of the team’s most reliable relievers and an important left-handed option out of the bullpen, leaving the Dodgers seriously shorthanded.
10 James Harden
Harden’s beard has spawned a number of basketball copycats, but the candidate for the 2015 NBA MVP award was among the first to truly embrace the beard movement wholeheartedly. As a member of the Houston Rockets, both Harden and his beard have grown significantly, and Harden’s contract apparently enables him to afford important extravagances that include a personal beard guru named Fritz.
9 Carlos Villanueva
Villanueva’s jet-black beard is best when it is accented by a handlebar mustache, a look he rocked while pitching for the Chicago Cubs. Villanueva, now with the St. Louis Cardinals, still has his dark beard, but it appears that he is waiting for Opening Day to debut the handlebar look that made him look very much like the Don Quixote of the baseball diamond. It is somewhat surprising that more pitchers don’t rock this look, as a handlebar mustache and long beard seem like the perfect hiding places for any number of foreign substances.
8 Josh Reddick
Reddick’s beard is so popular that it was able to draw the attention – and ire – of Daniel Bryan’s beard back in 2013. Bryan and Reddick faced off in a beard-off, in which the loser would have his beard shaven off by the winner. Bryan won and had the honor of shaving off Reddick’s pride and joy at the end of the 2013 baseball season. Unfortunately for beard aficionados everywhere, Reddick has kept his beard relatively trim during Spring Training, but a whole season of baseball will give Reddick plenty of time to allow his beard to grow back to its proper length.
7 Adam Kleeberger
Unfortunately for the world of rugby, Kleeberger’s beard is no more. But the Canadian rugby player once wore a beard that was so magnificent that it deserves attention despite it no longer existing as a part of Kleeberger’s face. While Canada is not exactly known as a rugby nation, Kleeberger’s bearded visage must have struck quite a bit of fear in opponents as he chased them all over the field during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
6 Clayton Kershaw
Over the past few seasons, Dodgers fans may have noticed something of a trend with their team’s ace starting pitcher: At the beginning of each Spring Training, Kershaw arrives with his hair short and his face shaved. But by midseason his locks have grown long and his face has gone unshaven, resulting in a beard that is not nearly as flawless as Kershaw’s curveball. To celebrate Kerhsaw’s 27th birthday, teammate Brett Anderson jokingly offered to give the three-time Cy Young winner some VitaBeard, which provides the user with “the ultimate beard growing experience.”
5 Simon Whitlock
The professional darts player from Australia goes by the nickname “The Wizard,” most likely owing to his exceptional dart skills, but is it really all that far-fetched to think that Whitlock may be an actual, practicing wizard? After all, it is easy to imagine Whitlock stroking his goatee while pondering various spells to doom his future opponents and thinking about the most appropriate number of rubber bands to use on his lengthy ponytail.
4 Brian Wilson
Wilson is one of baseball’s greatest characters, and the former Giants closer’s beard seemed to be the physical manifestation of the many personality quirks that lay beneath the surface. Wilson made several memorable appearances on late-night talk shows, once dressing up as a sea captain and dying his beard gray for the occasion. With the Dodgers, Wilson wore a Mohawk and kept his long beard in check by adding some Captain Lou Albano-style runner bands to the terminus of his facial outgrowth. Wilson is still without a team despite Opening Day being right around the corner, but the reliever probably isn’t in any rush due to the fact that the Dodgers are paying him $9.5 million not to pitch for them this season.
3 Daniel Bryan
Of course the winner of the beard-off against Josh Reddick would appear on this list, as the WWE superstar’s beard is among the best in all of sports today. Bryan has also inspired other successful bearded athletes, as Hunter Pence of the San Francisco Giants routinely led his teammates in the “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant popularized by Bryan during their most recent World Series victory. When one bearded champion inspires other bearded athletes to championships of their own, that alone is reason enough for counting them among the greatest beards in all of sports.
2 Roy Nelson
Nelson’s beard and mullet are certainly in keeping with the persona that has earned him the nickname “Big Country,” but it is also one of the most undeniably nasty beards around. It is such an awful look that the beard has been heavily criticized by Dana White, who referred to Nelson’s beard as a “long, nasty, ratty looking thing.” Nelson’s beard is definitely one of the beards appearing on this list that qualifies as nasty in the sense that it is repellent and quite possibly home to some unidentified vermin.
1 Brent Burns
The missing teeth, wild hair and unkempt beard all work in concert to make Brent Burns one of the nastiest looking players in all of professional hockey. Which is really surprising considering the fact that Cosmopolitan once named Burns as one of its hottest hockey players of 2013. Just a few years after gracing the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine and Burns has gone from one of the best-looking players in the NHL to one who bears a passing resemblance to Captain Caveman.
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