If ever you needed inspiration to put down the cider and pick up a free weight this summer, this is it: Buck-naked pro athletes – 27 of them – showcasing their birthday suits in ESPN magazine’s ‘Body’ issue
In an extra online feature, Joey Bats reveals the details of the photoshoot, saying he takes “a lot of pride in working out” and it was an “honour” to be a part of the Bodies issue, now in its fourth year. Later, he coyly admits it’ll be a “teasing point for the guys to pick on me.”
It’s a sentiment echoed in a behind (ha) the scenes video with tight end (seriously?) Rob Gronkowski. “I’m going to have a week of harassment,” he gushes, with photos “posted all over the locker room.”
More than kick-in-the-pants inspiration, the feature spread makes me stop (longer on photo 16, admittedly) on the sexualization of male athletes.
We are used to it with the women: In fact, seeing the entire US Women’s volleyball team naked wasn’t jarring or jaw-dropping at all.
But one look at Mike Smith’s photo had me blushing.
The awkward cupping pose the jockey strikes – and the fact that the horse is licking his head – had me clicking as quickly as I could off the image.
If this photo was anywhere but in an athletic magazine, would it be considered pornographic?
This isn’t to say the photos – and the bodies – aren’t wildly impressive, but what purpose does the spread serve? The promotion for the feature on ESPN’s homepage might just have the answer: ‘The bodies are back. Subscribe now!’
The online photo gallery exploded through the Twitterverse like Carlos Bocanegra’s obliques.
“Thanks, @ ESPN, for making it impossible to get work done after posting your "bodies we want" gallery.” said one tweeter. “Poetry in motion,” tweeted another. “Celebrates the aesthetic of the athlete.”
ESPN sports writer Jim Caple – who himself posed nude for the shoot, in order to write about it – said he now understands how women feel.
“I never fully appreciated their feelings about being judged on their bodies. Now I do. I also get the popularity of fad diet books.”
One commenter asked: “When did it turn into Eastern Sports and Porn Network?” and another ‘dudes’ dude wondered: “Do we really need a bunch of pictures of naked guys on here?”
What’s your reaction to the photos? Admiration, embarassment - a little of both?