The hundreds of tiny hairs that grow between the nose and upper lip of Keith Hernandez carry significant weight in New York. Their possible removal sparked this New York Times piece, and gave way to several rewrites of the story since that’s what the Internet does nowadays so everyone can get their own page views off someone else’s story.
But this is no rewrite.
This is a story. A story about how one mustache swept across the New York landscape (again) in the summer of 2007. And it didn't even need to re-appear on "Seinfeld" to happen.
Under no circumstances does this qualify as significant journalism that serves the greater good of the community. But there’s always room for some levity somewhere, sometimes. That June was one of those times.
Joe Fernandez, a colleague at the time, and I were bored one afternoon. Within an hour, we had 32 New York athletes seeded, four brackets developed and a plan to launch “Mustache Madness: The search for the greatest mustache in New York sports history.”
Our boss shrugged. A few weeks later, those shrugs turned to head shakes when he saw the traffic reports. Turns out, while we sounded a bit ridiculous with this plan, we actually knew what we were talking about.
Hernandez, the No. 1 seed in the Ray Finkel bracket, met Don Mattingly, the No. 2 seed in the Apollo Creed bracket in the championship round, a fitting battle for New Yorkers. Those two were the subject of endless debate in the 1980s and early 1990s among New York baseball fans as to who was the better player. Both could hit. Both could field. Both had mustaches. Hernandez had the ring, Mattingly had the mantle of being the only player nicknamed after his sport (“Donnie Baseball”).
Thanks to the good people at metsblog.com, Hernandez won Mustache Madness convincingly (see entire results here). It led to a column by Newsday’s Neil Best and the SNY broadcast team wearing oversized, cut-out mustaches on the air one inning to celebrate (watch that video here).
Then came the true insanity. The one people don’t believe when we tell this story five years later. The Mets launched a promotional night called “Slap on a ‘Stache.” Yes, 20,000 fake mustaches were handed out at Shea Stadium one night because of me and Joe – and the people who voted, of course, plus the folks in the Mets’ PR department who saw our wisdom and know how Hernandez's mustache transfixes people.
So when you hear people wondering aloud why Hernandez’s mustache made the New York Times, make clear to them this: Keith Hernandez’s mustache matters.
And with the Mets seven games under .500, 9 games back in the wild card and 25 games left to play, what else does? Meaningful games in September won't be bringing fans to the ballpark, but if Hernandez does indeed go through with his threat to take metal to hair, that's a meaningful broadcast in September.
(Note: Don’t believe all that stuff about how Hernandez won the American Mustache Institute’s best sports mustache. They didn’t even announce their competition until five days after Newsday.com’s 32-mustache, single-elimination “Mustache Madness” tournament ended. And Hernandez wasn’t even on AMI's original ballot. He was a write-in candidate for them. For us, he was a No. 1 seed. For everyone else, he was an inspiration.)
If you'd to read back on the madness that was Mustache Madness, click here and enjoy. (Since this resides on old, old, old servers from way back, it's just one big list. We advise a Ctrl+F search for "mustache" to get you going.)