Sometimes in professional journalism, you get an assignment that might make you a bit personally uneasy, but that you have to execute regardless, in the interest of the public good.
So it was when Bullets Forever recently pointed out that an observant commenter was wondering about Marcin Gortat’s lack of armpit hair.
Just had a commenter on our Facebook page point out that Marcin Gortat shaves his armpits. The evidence is clear. http://t.co/HFQeOUADpn— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) March 18, 2014
I mean, I waited as long as I possibly could. I tried to avoid this topic. But the pursuit of truth cannot be halted because of the personal comfort of one insignificant writer. The facts must breathe.
“I gotta ask you this one,” I said to Gortat recently. “It’s embarrassing, but people want to know. Do you actually shave your armpits?”
Let me stop for a moment to point out that, in addition to being a tremendous addition on the court, Gortat is arguably the best quote in the Wizards locker room. At least to my ears. He’s honest, he’s interesting, he’s occasionally surprising, he’s colorful, and he doesn’t wring the necks of random writers who ask about his personal hygiene.
“I shave yeah, sometimes,” Gortat said. “Not, like, shave with razor. Just shave, yeah.”
With electric clippers, he meant.
“Is that…that would be unusual in America,” I cleverly said, since the follow-up is just as important as the original question.
“Yeah?” Gortat said. “You’re a 30-years-old guy, you want to look like a freaking caveman? Is a normal thing.”
“I think it might be a European thing,” I said, since that’s what my co-worker Marissa had suggested. “I think it might be a normal thing in Europe?”
“I think a lot of people in this locker room shave,” Gortat argued.
“Shave their armpits, you think?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m quite sure.”
I never actually asked any other teammates. I did ask Garrett Temple if he knew whether Gortat shaves.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s a very interesting question. I have no idea if Marc shaves his armpits. I haven’t really paid attention to it.”
Anyhow, someone else — perhaps attempting to extricate me from the Gortat interview — asked the big man if there were a basketball reason to trim hair. Like, aerodynamic arm movements or something.
“No,” he said. “It’s more clean. Keep it clean more. It’s just more hygienic. It’s just clean.”
I will say, when I see hairy young men wearing basketball jerseys while watching NBA games from the stands, it’s hard to ignore their body hair. Especially the guys who don’t wear T-shirts underneath. It’s unsightly. Gortat does, indeed, look more hygienic than them.
Anyhow, I asked him if he cared if I wrote about this. He didn’t. Wizards PR said it was okay, too. So here we are. Although, listening back to my recording, I seemed unable to stop talking.
“I totally trim my chest a little bit, but I’ve never done my armpits,” I actually said.
“Stop now,” another reporter advised.
So there you have it. Thanks to everyone.