How ESPN Fights Body Issues with Body Issues

How ESPN Fights Body Issues with Body Issues

Every body is different.
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In October 2009, ESPN published the Body Issue, featuring regular sports coverage along with a photo collection of nude athletes in athletic (and non-athletic) poses. Not surprisingly, the special issue made more revenue (about 35% more) than did other issues that year. Since the first publication, ESPN has released a Body Issue once a year, giving its audience exactly what it wants from its reading material—pictures.

But not the pictures you would expect. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, this is not. (Remind me again what that has to do with sports? Swimming, right.) Look at the controversy resulting from Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott posing for the 2017 cover. Twitter erupted with comments, GIFs, and Ewok pictures (a lot of Ewok pictures) recoiling at, drooling over, or praising ESPN for actually one of the more modest 2017 covers. (If you want a good laugh, search “julian edelman body issue” to see a naked grown man screaming at a hamburger.)


If the firestorm of tweets over the Ezekiel Elliott Body Issue reveals anything, it’s that many people still fail to grasp the deeper significance of this special edition. People look up to athletes, if not because of their behavior, then in spite of it. In the Body Issue, they have the opportunity of seeing athletes compete, without uniform, without sponsors, simply as themselves. This reminds fans that they, too, have bodies under those helmets and gloves; that they went from children to adults; that they are as individual and as similar to fans as anybody. People admire athletes not because they represent an unattainable goal, but because they represent a goal they can attain: to be the best possible unique version of themselves.


Every athlete is different, as every body is different. What makes some people great offensive tackles might make them poor halfbacks; what makes some people great point guards might make them bad centers. Sports provide an outlet for people so they can develop their unique talents to their full potential. Some people naturally have more raw talent and go on to compete professionally, while others content themselves to compete recreationally. Whatever the level, sports always are about functionality, how fast you are, how strong, how skilled. Appearances mean nothing in sports except for media attention.


Because popular media does pressure everyone to appear pleasing, people often lose sight of this message. Athletes especially feel the pressure both to perform and to please, perhaps resembling a single ideal they’ve seen on TV or in a magazine. The ESPN Body Issue takes athlete bodies and celebrates them as realities rather than ideals. Maybe its featured athletes would be passed up for modeling Gucci or Luxe. But maybe a body-conscious athlete would see their favorite player posing for the Body Issue and think, “I could look like that,” and feel more comfortable being themselves.


Whatever you think of the ESPN Body Issue, whether you think it’s all a clever marketing ploy (it is) or you only read it for the articles (sure, you do), remember this: Every body is different. Yours is yours, and you only can be thankful for it. When you see athletes in ridiculous poses, remember they made it there because they worked hard and pushed themselves to keep surpassing their limits. Now there’s a model for everybody.


Cover Image Credit: goo.gl/dgrzXg

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

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The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

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Sports And Religion

Why are so many athletes religious?

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I recently just made it on to the USC Track and Field team, and it is easily the biggest accomplishment I have ever made in my entire life. I worked so hard to physically and mentally prepare to try out for the team, let alone actually make it. I thank God for allowing me to have the chance to be a part of this team, as well as giving me that physical and mental strength required to do so, and I express this whenever someone congratulates me for making the team or even asks if I made it or not. However, I noticed that when I did this, some of the responses were a bit dismissive when I brought religion into the picture. When I said I thank God for it, I would be met with responses like "Yea well even aside from God..." or another response that drew the conversation away from my faith, away from the concept of a god.

In fact, I've noticed that many athletes are religious in some form-- more so collectively than other student bodies aside from religious groups themselves. I thought about why this may be, aside from the obvious answer such as growing up religious at home, because that does not answer the question; many people grew up in a religious household and are not religious themselves. So, I began to think personally. Why do I thank God for my athletic performance? There's a certain level of uncertainty within every sport. All athletes train their hardest to minimize this level of uncertainty, in order to maximize their chances of success. However, you can only train so hard. To me, no matter how hard you train, there's always some type of level of uncertainty to every level of performance: the chances of you getting injured, the chances of you winning your game or race, the chances of the opponent's performance, etc. This is where I think God intervenes, and perhaps other athletes would agree. There have been countless times where I ran well and had absolutely no idea how I did it. Yes, I worked hard to improve my times, but when you are in the moment of a race, or a game, that fades into the background, especially when everyone else has been working just as hard. It's just you, your race (or game), and God. That's it.

I could have not made the team. As a walk-on, there is more pressure for you to perform since the coaches did not seek you out; you sought them out. You are proving your abilities. Thus, I was nervous about my chances of actually making the team, especially considering the fact that the USC track team is arguably the best collegiate track team in the United States. I performed well during my try out and finished all the workouts, however I wasn't as fast as the other girls. In addition, I was 3 minutes late to my last day of tryouts and got chewed out by the coach for it. I was convinced that I blew my chances. And yet, somehow, I made it. I worked so hard for it, yes, but I thank God for keeping my body healthy so I could train to the best of my ability. I thank Him for allowing the coaches to have the time to try me out. I thank Him for allowing them to see my potential. I thank Him for giving me the best high school track coach possible who prepared me mentally and physically, as well as supported me throughout all the highs and all the lows. I thank Him for giving me this chance to continue my track career at the most prestigious collegiate team. My gratitude for all this, is simply infinite.

There is good reason why many athletes are religious; being an athlete requires you to be more than yourself. It requires you to dig deeper, into places that you didn't even think were possible, and really aren't without the belief of a higher power. The belief in a higher power, in whatever form or name that takes, means the belief in infinite possibility. And for an athlete to have that, means nothing can stop them from chasing their dreams.

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