ESPN Body Issue 2013: Most Unlikely Athletes in This Year's Edition

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2013

Via ESPN the Magazine
Via ESPN the Magazine

Summer months might be the best on the calendar for most human beings, but for sports fans, it's about as close to hell on earth as you can get. Regular-season baseball games and the impending beginning of training camps in football are the topic of conversation, equating to one massive yawn that begins in July and ends somewhere around mid-August.

Luckily, the summer months also bring forth a ton of short distractions to take us away from our summer lull. And, no, for once I'm not talking about someone getting arrested or wearing the wrong hat at a Fourth of July party.

This distraction of which I speak is the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue, which hits newsstands on July 12. In hopes of bringing forth a little intrigue before the magazine hits stores, ESPN released the photos that will be featured in the issue on Tuesday. Featuring notable names like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, this year's Body Issue allows you to see your favorite athletes in their natural habitat—literally.

But every year, ESPN also finds a couple athletes to surprise us with their appearances. The names of the participants were released a few weeks ago, yet it's nonetheless interesting to see what the photographers did with their subjects.

Here is a look at the most surprising names on this year's Body Issue slate.


Gary Player (Golfer)

So raise your hand if 77-year-old Gary Player is in better shape than you? Keep it raised if Player posing for ESPN The Magazine make you feel worse about yourself as a human being. And raise both hands and jiggle your arm fat if you're going to do nothing about this horrible feeling except sit at home secretly watching episodes of New Girl on your laptop.

Alright then. Welcome to the club.

As someone who will be merely happy to be alive at 77 years old, Player's decision to pose for this year's Body Issue is something almost nearly unthinkable. My grandparents aren't even his age quite yet, and the most active thing I've seen any of them do over the past decade is mow the grass. (Love you, grandma.)

Player? He's more active than most people my age (I'm 23). Player even had some choice words for people of a certain age who wallow in their golden years during his ESPN interview

"I have this great ambition to show the world how fit you can be at this age," Player said. "People retiring at 65 is a joke. I'm almost 78—if I retire, I'd be dead in one year. I still work on my ranch. I do golf course design. I'm traveling seven months a year. You've got to keep moving!"

As for his pictures in the magazine, I have a couple questions. One: Why is he swinging two golf clubs in the one shot? That makes no sense. The second is a series of questions about the size of that massive golf ball, how much it weighs, whether there's a gigantic golf club that goes along with it, and whether I can have the ball for my office. 

Either way, play on, Player.


Kerri Walsh Jennings (Volleyball)

Pregnant women posing nude for magazines isn't exactly the most original idea in the world. Seemingly every model and celebrity has become obsessed with doing so over these past few years, almost to the point where it's a tradition. I'm half expecting another magazine cover with a pregnant celebrity to come out while I'm typing.

Walsh Jennings did them all one better. Not only did she give ESPN the well-trodden pregnancy picture, but the three-time Olympic gold medalist also gave the magazine the first glimpse of her post-pregnancy body as well.

That sound you heard was every gossip magazine editor on the planet's head hitting the ground and sobbing. It's remarkable that, considering the turnaround on this issue, that Walsh Jennings felt comfortable enough in her skin to be able to give her fans a full glimpse of her pregnancy. The 34-year-old Walsh Jennings, who gave birth to a son, Scout Margery, on April 6, posed with the baby in one of her shots.

In the issue, Walsh Jennings also admitted that Rio in 2016 will be her last Olympic Games. Her former playing partner, Misty May-Treanor, retired after the duo's Olympic triumph last year. She will pair with 31-year-old April Ross going forward. 


Miesha Tate (MMA)

On the surface, Tate posing for the Body Issue shouldn't be much of a surprise. The MMA community has long embraced the promotional opportunity, with Ronda Rousey posing for the issue last year amid her rise to fame.

Tate could see a similar result. She's conventionally attractive in every sense of the word and was the former Strikeforce bantamweight champion before being defeated by Rousey. There's little reason that Tate wouldn't be able to parlay her ESPN The Magazine appearance into something closer to national recognition—a rarity for women's MMAers outside of Rousey.

What's surprising is that Tate is posing for the Body Issue just a year after criticizing her rival for doing the same. In a series of tweets from July of last year, Tate calls Rousey a hypocrite for posing in the Body Issue after criticizing ring girls who posed nude in Playboy:

Now, of course, it's Tate taking heat for being a hypocrite. 

The major takeaway from this: Whatever. Neither Rousey nor Tate are worthy of any criticism whatsoever. They both made a move for the betterment of their careers, which should mostly be applauded rather than scoffed at. The use of sex appeal by female athletes and the subsequent objectification of future athletes as a result is one of the hairiest issues to bring up—especially for a male writer. 

So let's just move on, applaud Tate and Rousey for taking advantage of their opportunity and stop feigning like we actually give a damn one way or another about whether they're "hypocrites" or not.