"Learning the art of hiding behind my beard" by: Mike Reddell

   Sometimes a football game can just crawl.
   Take the Bay City-Wharton game last Friday.
   The Blackcats emerged victorious by 42-31, but the third quarter was roughly six hours long.
   OK, it wasn’t that long, but an endless stretch of penalty calls – many against Bay City – in a game that featured mostly passing tends to slow the clock.
   Truly, the announcer was giving area scores of games nearing their end in the fourth quarter.
   As I looked up at the scoreboard that showed the game we were in was halfway through the third stanza, I became restless – that feeling you’ve stepped into an alternate reality.
   You know, that feeling we all feel 24/7 living in the year 2020.
   The game did end - somewhere in the 11 o’clock hour.
   In these pandemic times, we don’t cross paths with each other as we did before.
   When we do we often don’t know who we’re seeing behind the masks.
   No, this isn’t an anti-mask credo, just a simple observation of current times.
   Gosh, with one eyebrow through life, most people identify me right off. 
   Age has a way of softening the once stark carbon streaks above my eyes with flurries of white hairs.
   In my younger days, I sported a black beard that covered a substantial part of my face.
   My column writing then was perhaps more fierce than it is nowadays – I choose my public fights a bit more carefully than I did back then.
   The fire is still there, but I’ve learned a pyrrhic victory is hard to recover from. 
   Anyway, one letter written to me as an editor in the early 1980s asked what was I hiding behind my beard.
   I answered with a non-satisfying rejoinder – this was a slower time of a few days between getting a letter to the editor and a reply. 
   I’m not sure those times were much better than the instamatic era of today.
   Later that year, I cut off my beard. Within a few hours my then two-year-old son stopped and looked at me, asking “where’s your beard?”
   I couldn’t win with or without the facial hair mask.
   I now sport a mostly white goatee – a full beard would just invite too many comparisons to the jolly elf.
   I don’t know about y’all, but I feel like I’m plodding along in my own world behind a mask.
   That’s a good thing if you want to wear a grumpy or mean face and not have to deal with expressions of people who don’t like being frowned at.
   I’ve mostly liked smiling at people – it usually pays off with a similar response.
   Not today, but then again I wasn’t smiling in that third quarter and no one knew.      

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