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Playoff beard won't let me down

JJ Feigenbaum is a freshman at Wesleyan and an Andover native. He has followed the Patriots for the entire 18 years of his life. Fanaticism runs in the blood, as his father, Mark Feigenbaum, was Patriots Fan of the Year in 1996. Ladies beware; he plans to name his first-born child, son or daughter, Belichick.

I look miserable with facial hair. Just plain awful. It's multi-colored, wispy and comes in in patches. I haven't shaved in two weeks. My face itches and there might be food caught in this beard-like contraption on my face. Apparently I look like I'm homeless, but that might be an insult to the dispossessed. But I have no plans to shave. None, whatsoever.

Because it's playoff time and sometimes you have to go the extra mile, fans and players alike. That's right, it is playoff beard time. If it works for Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri then it's certainly good enough for me. But at least I got my roommate to go in on it with me and I don't look like an idiot all by myself.

Scarily enough, the playoff beard has some history, and thankfully, a lot of positive history. As I look through pictures from my World Series victory party, there we are: me and my roomie Anwell, bearded and loving it. We didn't quite reach Johnny Damon's epic caveman style, but frighteningly, we were pretty close. Then again the baseball playoffs weren't a month long, but either way, it worked. The Sox took home the World Series and we had the greatest shaves of our lives the next morning. So we rolled the beards out again for the NFL playoffs. Besides, its winter and you lose 90 percent of your body heat out of your head. Seriously, you could look that up.

I'm sure we aren't alone in our playoff beards. In fact, facial hair levels across New England have probably reached record highs. Everyone has their own superstition. Most probably don't involve looking like a vagabond, but that's just how it goes. The best part about being a fan is the connection you have with your team. Whether that connection manifests itself in the clothes you wear or the hair you grow, it's all about being a proud fan.

My father called me today excited because his Super Bowl tickets are in Row JJ and somehow the fact he'll be sitting in a row named after me -- OK, sharing my name -- ensures the Pats of a victory in Super Bowl XXXIX. But you know what, why shouldn't that be a great omen? He did shoot a hole-in-one the week before I was born; maybe some of that good fortune is still swirling around. My little brother wears his Richard Seymour jersey for every game. Superstitions, rituals, good luck charms all, anything to give the Pats an edge, but more, anything to make us feel like we personally are giving them an edge.

Not like I think they'll need it. Don't get me wrong, Philly is a good team, a very good team. But their Super Bowl was the NFC Championship. Donovan McNabb can talk as much about the Lombardi trophy being their main goal as he wants, I won't be convinced otherwise. I didn't always believe teams had personal Super Bowls or that any game other than the actual big game could mean so much. Then I was sitting in Miami in December as the hapless Dolphins knocked off the Pats. They started out flat, and actually remained pretty flat the entire game, but when they had their shot to take home a W in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins, and their fans, came alive. It really did make their season, to beat the Patriots like that, prove that they were a team with heart.

While the Eagles and Dolphins had far from parallel seasons, the fact remains Philly had dropped three straight NFC Championship games, all to teams they could have beaten. The question really wasn't, “is this the year they win it all?” it was “is this the year they get over the NFC Championship hump?” And they did, which was great for them, great for the city of Philadelphia and great for their fans. But they already won their Super Bowl. Donovan McNabb has proven to everyone that he isn't a poor man's Jim Kelly, that the Eagles aren't the minor league version of the Buffalo Bills.

But now, what do they have to prove? They reached their goal. Sure, they'll put up a good fight and maybe against some other teams they might even pull off an uninspired victory. But against the Patriots? I know I'm a homer, and I'll always be one, but the Pats have been there, have done it, and know how to win. Super Bowl XXXIX is the Pats' Super Bowl. World championships are expected in New England and the Pats don't like to disappoint.

Besides, the playoff beard hasn't failed us yet.

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