The mustache puns are brutal enough to make even burly rugby players groan. But members of the Southern Oregon University men's team are nonetheless slugging out Movember, a monthlong fundraiser in which upper lips all over the world are growing hairy to raise awareness and money for men's health.
On Nov. 1, the team met on the SOU campus practice field not just to perform passing, rucking and scrimmaging drills, but to show off their clean-shaven faces.
Since that universal start day, the players have been in a lighthearted competition to grow a mustache before being judged on its thickness and appearance on Dec. 1 at the Playwright Public House on A Street.
What: Southern Oregon University Men's Rugby Team Movember mustache judging
When: Saturday, Dec. 1
Where: Playwright Public House, 258 A St., Ashland, 541-488-9128
Donations: Men's health supporters can donate all month long at us.movember.com/mospace/1028578 or at the Playwright Pub. Donations of products or services also are needed to be auctioned off at the evening's silent auction
Awards will be presented to the men sporting the sexiest, scariest, feeblest and best overall "mo," slang for "mustache." The winners may even become eligible to earn a "Moscar."
Eight days into the fuzzy process, R.J. Orozco, 24, who plays flanker on the team, showed off the outlines of a Fu Manchu that has the potential to look like his inspiration: the dripping, horseshoe-shaped 'stache actor Ben Stiller sported in the comedy "DodgeBall."
"I trimmed it last night so it stands out more," the SOU senior health and physical education major said on Thursday. "I will see what kind of comments I get today."
This is the first time Orozco has participated in Movember, but it's the team's third year.
Peter Bolton, who owns the Playwright Pub and coaches the team, says he has encouraged his 25 players to become "Mo Bros" to maintain a more healthy lifestyle and learn about prostate cancer and other male cancer detection to reduce the number of preventable deaths.
He has another motivation, too: "I want to try and instill a sense of responsibility and involvement in the community in these young men," said Bolton, a 45-year-old husband and father. "It's important that they know that they're a part of something worthwhile and are contributing in some way."
On Nov. 1, otherwise known as Shave the Day in Movember speak, Ronson Hill, 20, was touching his baby face and watching the rugby drills from the sidelines.
There, the SOU business marketing and communication major confessed that although he has attempted to be competitively hirsute two years in a row, he has not been successful.
As of Thursday, the 6-foot-6-inch, 260-pounder, who performs the work of the lock on the team, acknowledged that despite his best efforts, his mustache still looks like that of a 14-year-old boy's.
Although it's too early for him to even consider grooming, trimming or waxing his nascent whiskers, he did identify three players with natural advantages: Orozco, Garrett Hagerla and Greg Filmore.
Regardless of bristle ability, the entire team was asked to participate a few weeks ago and most instantly complied. "The few stragglers who were hesitant to shave their facial hair came around," said Hill, who also serves as the team's social coordinator. "As a rugby team, we have creative ways of persuasion."
Coach Bolton admitted that some players will resort to filling in their wisps with black Sharpie pens before standing before the judges.
Despite lots of ribbing among the "rugby louts," Bolton says growing mustaches for charity is serious business.
With 854,000 participants, the Movember Foundation raised $126.3 million worldwide last year to fund education, survivorship and research programs. In the U.S., funds are given to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Livestrong Foundation.
"So far, it's going well," reported Bolton. "We're in the early days and the mos are starting to get a foothold on our upper lips. The whole team is just beginning to reach out to friends and family for donations. Our goal is $1,000."
Bolton's 3-year-old daughter, Finley, gave $5 to the cause. "She thinks it's quite funny that I have a hairy lip," he said.
The newly whiskered male staff at the Playwright is also showing 'stache solidarity, and coins in the pub's donation box are trickling in.
On Thursday, the rugby team held a pasta feed fundraiser at the campus' Cascade Food Court. In previous years, they raised money by conducting can drives and by doing community woodcutting.
Some Movember team members sell naming rights to their mustaches or allow a patron to dictate the style, from the upturned Dali to the down-turned chevron, or the subtle pencil-thin one or more flamboyant chopper and walrus.
As the organization's goal to "change the face of men's health" confirms, learning to prevent cancer doesn't have to be dull.
Facebook postings list tongue-in-cheek benefits of donning lower nose hair: "It provides insulation between the mouth and nose in colder-weather climes."
Retail websites are touting mustachery must-haves. "Mo Bros" can get a plastic mustache to clip on beer bottles to prevent foam impact. "Mo Sistas" can show their support by wearing furry, mustache-shaped necklaces, bracelets and gloves. For any gender, there are mustache-inspired bike covers and drinking straw adornments.
Conversations, too, prove that there is just something about mustaches that brings out the manly act of acting silly. Movember participants keep "mo-tivated" by walking along the pun path: "United we grow," "Get mo'ing" and "I'm sexy and I mo it!"
With about 20 or so more days to go in Movember, can you handle(bar) it?
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.