This week’s hottest media scandal threatens to usher in a new era of sports journalism, in which every seemingly harmless fact must be ruthlessly fact-checked into sawdust. Believe nothing. Question everything. If your mom tells you she loves you, fact-check it. If the scoreboard says there’s a rain delay, stick out your hand. If an NFL franchise tells you it’s ripping out seats to better the fan experience, fact-check it. If NHL owners tell you they just care about helping the fans, question it.
But somehow, I already forgot that lesson while filing a quote from Bryce Harper’s recent Jimmy Kimmel appearance.
“I swear, I shower seven times while I’m at the field and I don’t even need to,” Harper said, in discussing his baseball superstitions. “As long as I’m on a streak, or we’re doing good, or my team’s winning, I’m gonna keep doing the same thing. Wearing the same undershirt. I mean, I eat Eggo waffles — it has to be Eggo — right before the game. It’s really weird. [Peanut butter] and honey. I mean, I’m really superstitious.”
“Really weird” could have been a warning sign, but the media lapped it up.
“He showers seven times!?” David Brown asked at Big League Stew. “Obsessive-compulsive much? Hey, genius takes many different forms. As does dry skin.”
But Brown didn’t question the basic facts of the anecdote. Nor did others.
“Seven showers between noon and 7 p.m.?” asked Steve DelVecchio at Larry Brown Sports. “I know MLB teams make plenty of money, but how about conserving a little water? Natural resources, bro.”
And on and on. And no one outright questioned Harper’s truthiness until the following day’s episode of PTI.
“I don’t believe for one second he takes seven showers a day,” Michael Wilbon said. “Not for one second. And later, there’ll be some ‘miscalculation,’ and maybe he’ll appear on ‘Oprah,’ and he can talk about how it was really four showers a day and not seven on a game day. You know, I’m never gonna knock cleanliness, never gonna knock getting rid of germs and getting them away from your person, especially in the clubhouse…[but] he’s not taking seven showers a day. There’s no chance.”
“Are you saying seven’s impossible?” Tony Reali asked?
“Impossible,” Wilbon said. “Not happening.”
Well then. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me seven times, with or without moisturizer, shame on the sports media.
So I checked in with some clubhouse sources. They confirmed that Harper arrives at the park on the early side, but there’s a lot that might happen away from prying eyes.
“Now that you mention it, he does seem to be in [the showers] quite a bit,” one said. “Not to the point where people are saying, ‘Jeez, Harper’s in the shower again,’ but yeah.”
Still, it’s legitimately tough to come up with a feasible timeline in which Harper logs seven distinct showers during a single game day, much less while he’s at the park.
Like, assume he takes a shower when he wakes up. Then he breakfasts, and maybe stretches or something, and showers again. The drive to the park is taxing, so he arrives and takes a third shower. Lifts weights, showers. Takes BP, showers.That’s five.
So then he plays the game and showers. Drives home…and showers? That’s a reach, and it also contradicts Harper’s words: “I shower seven times while I’m at the field.” (Emphasis added.)
At a minimum, more research is needed here. More questions need to be asked before a potential fantasy is peddled as fact. And the national sports media — present company included — have yet again bought a story that sounded too good to be true, without bothering to figure out whether it actually is.
Apologies, to everyone affected.
(And if anyone from Bryce’s camp reads this and takes offense, I’m just joking. I believe him. Direct your anger at Wilbon.)