Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Whose Body?

ESPN The Magazine has released its latest Body Issue featuring the nude physiques of famous professional athletes. This year's issue includes tennis player Venus Williams,  swimmer Michael Phelps, soccer star Omar Gonzalez and many others.

But the athlete creating the most stir is Texas Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder. Why the fuss? Well, Mr. Fielder is a big dude. He isn't lean and slender like nearly every other athlete featured in the magazine. He has thighs for days and a firm round stomach and giant rolling hills for shoulders. He doesn't look like the others.

All athletes are not created from the same mold so allowing for some diversity is a welcome change. All too often, society creates parameters for athletes in each sport that might limit participation by children who feel like they don't look the part or whose parents feel like they don't look the part. If you are really tall, you play basketball. If you are short and speedy, soccer is your sport. Rough and tumble kids with long hair and a blatant disregard for the importance of a full set of teeth are hockey players. There are exceptions to every rule, however. Spud Webb long reigned as the height exception for basketball players and I think big guys like Prince Fielder demonstrate daily that lean might be mean but being husky isn't an obstacle to success on the playing field.

I don't expect that the inclusion of overweight athletes or those who are bigger than the average will become a trend. We won't see weight lifters and sumo wrestlers in the buff any time soon. We probably will never see a thick woman gracing the pages either. Back fat and love handles probably disqualify an athlete immediately. But I love that ESPN The Magazine included Fielder in the Body Issue this time.

Three cheers for the big and beautiful!

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