If I told you a woman was 6’0″ and weighed 172 lbs., you’d probably picture some grotesque fathouse exiting a Fuddruckers. “No, no, no,” I’d explain. “This woman is one of the premiere names in women’s basketball history and plays guard/small forward for the Phoenix Mercury.”
“Ohhhh,” you’d say. And then you’d revise your mental image to this:
But what if we pulled the classic hair-down, glasses-off librarian trick on an athlete. Go ahead, Diana. Release the prisoners you’ve been stowing in that tightly wound bun. And show us what you’re smuggling beneath that baggy jersey. No, don’t bother putting make up on. We just want to see what you look like.
If a picture is worth a thousand words and leaves me speechless…
The second annual ESPN Magazine Body Issue hit news stands last week, and I have spent a substantial amount of my free time ogling its pages since I got my hands on a copy. Though I am an unabashed jersey chaser who is laughably prude, my fixation on the photos of these nude bodies is not even remotely sexual. I wouldn’t dare look at something so austere with sex on my mind.
It would be like looking at the Grand Canyon with anything but awe. And it’s the same premise, isn’t it? Staring at the shades of light and dark that absorb, reflect, and refract around stone that has been hardened, shaped, and refined by years in its elements.
I look at these bodies with such intense admiration, it almost borders on disbelief. Herschel Walker, former Heisman trophy winner and NFL Pro-Bowl running back / current MMA fighter, is 48 years old. His body is a functional masterpiece.
And I can say without hesitation, that he looks better than 100% of people who will read this post and would absolutely kick your ass. But don’t be offended. It’s not you; it’s him. To compare you to the mix of genetic freak and obsession with self-mastery is inhumane. Partly because, like so many in this year’s Body Issue, he is not human.
The word ‘demigod‘ comes to mind. These bodies are a testament to a higher form.
And it feels appropriate to draw parallels to religion. The athletes in the pages of The Body Issue have a sanctified and devout dedication to their craft, their sport, and their bodies. Compared to the haphazard form taken by the rest of us slobs, their bodies are deliberate architectural wonders. So much so, that to invoke the “your body is a temple,” passage seems like a short sell. These bodies are the corporeal Holy Land.
The preceding image makes me think that God was reaching for Tim Howard, but got saddled with the apathetic, bored Adam, who reclines listlessly in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.
Is it any wonder we fell from Paradise? And now, a look of scorn, brought to you by Tim Howard.
The reason so many children want to grow up and be professional athletes, yet only a decimal place of them get the opportunity is because of the people in the pages of this magazine. The way these athletes make their sport look easy is deceiving. Their gametime performance fails to show the thousands of hours in the gym and the obsession with excellence that is demanded of the best. Does a golfer like Camilo Villegas need to be shredded? No. But his body is simply the physical manifestation of the precision and perfection required by golf.
I’d call the bodies of these athletes miraculous, but that’s an unfair characterization that doesn’t acknowledge their life’s work. These bodies had no help. They took no short cuts.
So you can keep the skinny models or the surgically enhanced. I don’t need the inflated bulk piled on in the weight room that is frivolous, futile, and false. I prefer those who value the purpose and function of the body. Give me the thoroughbreds with the work ethic that pays homage to the gift. Give me the athletes.