While uptight parents nationwide cringe, I applaud the Worldwide Leader for its artful depictions of the human body.
The line between pornography and art is undeniably thin, and finding a tasteful way to portray naked human beings is no easy task (not using a cell phone helps). But I think the mag succeeds in presenting the beautiful aesthetics of an athlete's body without crossing into Playboy territory.
Twenty-two athletes participated in this year's edition, including NBA sensation Blake Griffin and USA Soccer's goalie-turned-national treasure Hope Solo (thankfully no NFL offensive linemen was chosen).
And while ESPN and these athletes will be heavily criticized by the PC police, I see nothing wrong with celebrating the healthiness and beauty of an athlete's body.
Solo put it better than I ever could in her interview with ESPN during the shoot: "If a sex symbol is now a top female athlete, I think that's pretty amazing, and it shows how far our country has come, from the stick-thin models, from what you see in most magazines," Solo said.
I couldn't agree more with Solo. Young women across the nation are constantly told by the magazine industry that they need to be skinny to be sexy.
Yet ESPN is flipping that script, showing that true physical beauty is derived from being healthy. I believe that is an incredibly important message, and one of the few positive ones that women are exposed to through magazines.
And as for men, if seeing Blake Griffin's perfect physique is what gets your ass off the couch and into the gym, well I see nothing wrong with that either.