ESPN Body Issue 2013: Gary Player's Strong Words on Fitness Should Be Commended

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IJuly 12, 2013

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - APRIL 03:  Gary Player of South Africa waits on a tee box during the pro-am at the Sao Paulo Golf Club prior to the start of the Brasil Classic Presented by HSBC on April 3, 2013 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images for HSBC)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

When you think golf, you don't normally think fitness. 

Gary Player is out to change that.

In fact, the 77-year-old PGA Tour legend is out to change a society-wide perception that there's an age limit to healthy living in the United States. 

Player made national headlines when the news of his appearance in ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue was first announced, namely because he is far and away the oldest athlete to ever appear in the publication's annual glance into some of sport's best-kept bodies. 

Washington Wizards guard John Wall, Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings and New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey were others who grabbed headlines for agreeing to take it all off in photo shoots, but it was Player who shocked the nation with the decision to bare all for the camera. 

He's back in the spotlight again following an interview with USA Today's Chris Strauss, in which he referred to America's lack of care toward eating and living a healthy lifestyle as a "tsunami of obesity."

Here's an excerpt from his over-the-phone comments to USA Today's For The Win, in which the South African blasts an entire nation's eating and lifestyle habits:

America is maybe the most unhealthy nation in the world because they live on crap...They’ve got the best food in the world, the best farmers and the best food but they live on crap. People [are] giving their children a soft drink and a doughnut to go to school. No wonder academically they’re affected.

55 percent of the greatest country in the world is obese? You go to Korea and those kids finish school at 7 o’clock at night because there’s no sense of entitlement. It frustrates me because I happen to have 15 American grandchildren. I love America but I get so upset at the way I see the obesity. I just don’t see how the healthcare system can work. I pray it does but I just don’t see how it can work with this tsunami of obesity.

Player's impassioned stance on fitness should be commended.

If his bold choice to appear in the magazine wasn't enough, the choice to use his renewed name as a hot topic to push wholesale lifestyle changes at the American people certainly isn't the best way to win friends and influence people. 

Not that Player cares about making new friends. He just wants you to be healthy. 

If this is the first you're hearing about Player feeling strongly about keeping fitness high on his priority list, check out his nickname (Mr. Fitness) and Twitter account (@garyplayer) to see that his recent comments are just a microcosm of the way he's lived his life for quite some time now. 

Player has told reporters he manages 1,200 sit-ups every day and still squats 250 pounds at his current age, and was one of the first golfers in his era to prove that lifting weights and adding muscle to one's frame didn't affect swing mechanics or technique on the biggest of stages. 

This tweet from Player's account is really a window into the way he lives his life:

Player echoes his strong words to USA Today in the extended interview he conducted with Morty Ain of ESPN the Magazine, saying that his decision to pose nude was part of a bigger plan to help people feel motivated to live a healthy life. 

Here's an excerpt from that interview:

Posing in the magazine is just part of my plan. My big dream now is to help people become healthy. Obesity, as far as I'm concerned, is the greatest problem facing the planet at the moment. What worries me is there is nothing worse than when you see children getting all of these diseases now. People are overeating and eating all kinds of fatty foods and high sugars and junk. We have a massive challenge. It's actually easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than to get the average man to worry about diet and exercise.

With a modern-day nod to Jesus' quote to the disciples in the book of Matthew, Player yet again proves his commitment to staying ahead of the fitness curve is something he doesn't take lightly. 

He believes that the human body is made to last until the 100-year mark, but the Western Society idea of "eat plenty and die young" is far more predominant than pushing toward current cultural limits. 

Golf Channel's Jason Sobel was one of the first to comment on Player's appearance in the magazine issue back in June, predicting that seeing his physical dominance at age 77 was going to prompt many to get back in the gym:

Of course, not everyone can keep up the torrid pace that Player has over the years.

Bodies age and diminish at their own pace, and it's unfair to say that the average elder should be in the gym with those who might be 40 years their junior.

But as a wake-up call to the average 23-year-old (like this writer), or others searching for a reason to trade in the next french fry for a run around the neighborhood, Player's comments in the aforementioned interviews serve as something we haven't quite seen before in America. 

Sure, stories of those closer to the grave than graduation often times take hold of "special interest" segments on the nightly news. Those older men and women are seen as "defying odds," since most their age are doing something vastly different than playing sports, climbing mountains, etc. 

But Player aims to let his active and full lifestyle be an example for those who can afford to make a change, rather than a reason to admire the rarity of his story before heading to the local McDonald's. 

Player, who will turn 78 in November, has long been known as one of golf's biggest legends. With nine career major championship wins and a spot in history as the only man to complete a career Grand Slam in both the PGA and Champions (senior) Tour, that should come as no surprise. 

But "Mr. Fitness" would rather be known as the guy in his 70s who can out-work, out-lift, out-eat (in a good way) and out-class most Americans nowhere near his current age. 

"Eventually, age gets the better of you, but it certainly hasn't gotten me yet," said Player in his interview with Ain. "It will start sometime, but you can prolong it for a long time."

Listen up, America.

Gary Player wants you to be healthy in your 70s and beyond, too. Judging by his body of work as a professional golfer, his photos in the Body Issue and his active lifestyle, you might want to pay attention to his advice.  

Follow Bleacher Report's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter. 


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