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Column: I am thankful for the memories of Lovie Smith’s beard

Even if looking back on them makes me sad.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. This holiday season will undoubtedly be one of the most unusual that any of us have ever experienced. The comforts of the season that have symbolized the holidays for our entire lives have been deemed unsafe, so we are having to get used to a new normal.

However, there are certain comforts that should never be abandoned; there are certain things that we hold so dear to the core of our beings that we cannot just ignore them for a year, either prudently or arbitrarily.

For me, one of those comforts is found in my eternal, non-sexual thirsting over Lovie Smith’s erstwhile salt and pepper (but mostly salt) beard. Last year, I took to regularly referring to the Illinois head coach as “Lovie Claus,” because his whimsical whiskers evoked the magic, warmth, and benevolence of Kris Kringle himself.

Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

In the words of Angelica Schuyler in the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” “You see it, right?”

However, whether it was the pandemic making it difficult for him to get the products required to maintain the fullness of his face fleece, or he simply found that his chin got too toasty last season, Lovie Lee Smith shaved off his beard in the offseason, and is now sporting a clean-shaven look.

And while I can appreciate that he now appears to be about two decades younger than he did a year ago, the Lovie-specific pogonophile in me can’t help but feel disappointed. In fact, when ranking Ohio State’s games this preseason, I put this Saturday’s Battle for the Illibuck in last place of games that I was looking forward to, because I just could not for the life of me get excited for a game played against a beardless Sir Loveland.

I, of course, respect whatever decision Lovie makes in regards to his own facial hair, but the combination of the world being on fire and Lovie not having a beard has been a bit much for me lately.

So, I am going to take a stroll down Memory Lane and admire all of the qualities that a bebearded Lovie Smith represented to the world, and more importantly, to me personally.

A leader

NCAA Football: Redbox Bowl-California vs Illinois Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

A common man

NCAA Football: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A man of the people

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

A man who would not be deterred by the elements

NCAA Football: Illinois at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

A family man

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

A thinker

NCAA Football: Illinois at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

A man with a great beard who sticks his tongue out sometimes

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

A statesman

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

A man of mystery

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 18 Big Ten Football Media Days Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

And now, a man I don’t recognize anymore

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

After some unexpected start and stops, I am back to posting a column every single day from preseason camp until whenever Ohio State’s football season ends. Some days they will be longer and in depth, some days they will be short and sweet. Let me know what you think of this one, and what you’d like to see me discuss in the comments or on Twitter. Go Bucks!