The moment the entire sports calendar has been waiting for all year is on the precipice of arriving. No, I'm not talking LeBron James' Decision 2.0. Of course, I'm not discussing the World Cup semifinal matches. And, please, get out of here with talk about baseball's Midsummer Classic.
What I speak of, those of you who follow real, live, actual sports, is ESPN's The Magazine's annual release of its "Body Issue." Built with the same purpose in mind of Sports Illustrated's famed swimsuit edition, the Body Issue differentiates in a few notable ways.
One being that everyone posing in the magazine is an actual athlete. Michael Phelps, Venus Williams, Marshawn Lynch and Serge Ibaka highlight the 22 players across all major sports—and some entirely random ones—who have their own spread. World Cup hero Omar Gonzalez is there, as is Team USA women's hockey star Hilary Knight.
One thing ESPN The Magazine is decidedly not is discriminatory toward the most famous faces in sports.
Oh, and the other thing that differentiates the Body Issue from Sports Illustrated? Errrbody is nekkid.
Although the Body Issue still trends more toward PG-13 than the instant lewdness that pops into most people's minds when discussing nudity, the one requirement of posing is, indeed, being in the buff. You will never see a higher level of creativity when it comes to strategical hair placement and well-planned poses.
ESPN also seems to take pride in how the magazine displays the athletes. There is not a predilection to the "most attractive" athlete in every sport, rather a wide range of body types.
ESPN The Magazine editor-in-chief Chad Millman said in a statement: "We somehow manage to raise the bar each year. This year's collection of exceptional athletes and stunning photography showcases an array of sports and body types. It inhabits our mission to pay tribute to these athletes' bodies and all they are capable of."
Among those bodies this year will be paralympian Amy Purdy. The bronze medal-winning snowboarder had to have her legs amputated after contracting bacterial meningitis as a teenager. The Las Vegas native was also a former Dancing With the Stars cast member and spoke with ESPN's Morty Ain about how she was diagnosed:
Within 24 hours, I was in the hospital on life support, and I was given less than a 2 percent chance of living. It took five days for the doctors to find out that I had contracted bacterial meningitis. I ended up losing my legs below the knees from septic shock. But I have to say that if I had not gone through that experience, I certainly wouldn't be where I'm at today.
The issue, like most things in life, is what you make of it. The issue has garnered both praise and criticism, as some look to exalt its taste for including the likes of Purdy and its encompassing nature. Others have viewed as a step too far across the line when it comes to decency. Passing judgment is not something you'll see in this space on one side or the other, largely because these athletes are willing participants and, frankly, I am Kermit the Frog when it comes to this issue.
|2014 ESPN The Magazine Body Issue Athletes|
|Ginger Huber||Cliff Diving|
|Travis Pastrana and Lyn-Z||Motocross and Skateboarding|
"I got to show some love for the fat backs," Lynch said, as only Lynch could, in an interview with Ain. "Don't matter if we don't get love, as long as I give mine. Even though I get butt-a-- naked, I'm still gonna let my body do the talking for me. I'm cool with my body, I love my body. I wouldn't trade it for no other body."
See? The lesson here is to always be happy with yourself no matter what. I think. Maybe Lynch just really loves his body and enjoys giving cool quotes. Either way. It's a nice sentiment.
You can make your own judgment on ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue when it hits newsstands July 11.