I’m worried about James Harden.
It’s not his less-than-stellar performance in Game One of the NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals earlier this week (nine turnovers does not an MVP make). It’s his beard.
Normally, I’m down with our hirsute superstar’s manly fringe. It’s distinctive, exuberant even. When he wears that black suit, the one with the yellow splotches and the porkpie hat, he looks like the world’s funkiest Hasid, which is a very good thing indeed. Esoteric facial hair is the Big Thing in the NBA these days, and given the choice between Harden’s Mormon Church President stylings and, say, Anthony Davis’s unibrow, give me Harden every time. A beard is a fashion statement. A unibrow? That’s just bad grooming.
Now comes a highly unscientific report from a local TV station in Albuquerque, New Mexico, informing us that beards are bristly death traps, loaded with levels of bacteria “comparable to toilets.” Now, Albuquerque’s favorite son is a fictional science teacher turned maniacal drug kingpin, so you have to assume that the citizenry is a little permissive when it comes to germs. But this is a disturbing bit of information.
While I’ve never swabbed his beard to confirm it, Harden appears to be scrupulous in all aspects of his personal hygiene, including beard grooming. But what if it’s not his fault? What if beards are just nature’s lint trap for whatever’s floating around in the air? The NBA is filled with dudes whose personal habits appear to tend to the Albuquerquean. Could something bubonic have scampered out of Joakim Noah’s unkempt top knot or Chris Kaman’s leonine goatee and taken up residence on the Rockets all-star? Donald Sterling doesn’t own the Clippers anymore, but surely traces of his sulfuric presence linger in the Staples Center like a noxious cologne, just waiting to settle into someplace downy and warm.
You’ve got to be vigilant, Mr. Harden. It’s been 20 years since the Rockets have gone to the Finals, and we can’t do it if you’re down with a beard-related illness.
Does Purell make a beard oil?