This article was written by Austin Kent on TheGoodPoint.com
Dear Greg Oden's Neck Beard,
It hasn't been two weeks since the day you hung thick and proud under the Herculean jaw of northwestern hope, but your absence in the time herein has left an uncomfortable void in many a man's life. As an admittedly judgmental basketball fan myself, I was never quite sure whether to love or hate your homage to America's 16th president, but the unbridled combination of patriotism and ferocity is one that strikes a particular cord in me.
While other forms of facial decor toe the lines of intense and intolerable, your silent curtain symbolized the grown-ass man on which you grew; a bushel of tenacity eclipsed only by the demeanor of a grizzled face. But now - like the man with whom you shared your Abraham title - you are gone, remembered solely for your monumental impact on American history.
Nobody knows exactly what prompted your appearance over these past few months (though a betting man might suggest it be the product of a bored 20-year-old with newfound hormones), but your departure will no doubt reverberate through the basketball community. In the meantime, the sullen giant with whom you wreaked mid-November havoc continues to quietly pursue uncontested development in Portland.
Greg Oden, a man you're more than familiar with, is more than just an overhyped draft pick making his NBA debut one season too late, he is the collected embodiment of the pressure we put on ourselves to produce society's next.
The latest sacrificial hypelamb of the athlete world, Oden has been put through the wash time and time again, facing trials and tribulations typically reserved for pop phenomena and the daughters of socialite businessmen. The resulting weathered effect of such scrutinizing treatment has left its mark on a man now deemed older than he ought to be. You, Mr. Neck Beard, did nothing to help that.
Though your place between chin and Adam's apple may be gone forever, your role in the Legend of Greg lives on. After 16 months of tireless pressure, more than enough injuries and a brief stint in the admirable beard community, your exile is both timely and appreciated.
In losing you, the manchild with a destiny can start focusing on something other than acting older than he should. No longer will your thickness and unadulterated maturity limit the life of a minor, holding him prisoner to society's expectations. Look at how much younger he is without you, how liberated and stress-free.
Forget the fact that the Blazers have averaged nearly a 20-point margin of victory in the first four games without you, your absence is rediscovered youth, and the beauty of it all is that Greg Oden has finally realized that it's okay to be a kid again. You added weight to the shoulders of a man who didn't need it, you aged a child who didn't deserve it, and now you can no longer harm the future of the NBA's prodigal son.
Either that or you just got really itchy.