Dear ESPN the Magazine,
I was less than surprised when I read in USA Today about your upcoming "body issue," which hits newsstands October 19. Your managing editor, Gary Belsky, speaking "from his office in Manhattan," explained that the issue—which will feature, basically, naked athletes—is in the works. "We're toying with the idea of making it a no-clothes issue," Belsky said, expressing that the challenge is figuring out how to "use equipment and pads and bats and goalposts and soccer nets and pucks and helmets to obscure body parts that we still can't quite go to in a magazine that's part of a company owned by (Disney)."
Such is the difficult life of a sports journalist these days. I sympathize.
And I wouldn't expect ESPN the Magazine—a glossy publication whose chief purpose is getting readers to buy mid-shelf vodka, domestic beer, large trucks, and erectile dysfunction medication—to ascribe to the same standard of morality as, say, CT (not in the works anytime soon: an issue devoted to nude theologians covered only by commentaries and manuscripts). An issue featuring the (nearly) naked is only surprising in that it took this long to come together, given the success of Sports Illustrated's oft-hidden, much-perused annual swimsuit issue—a bane to frustrated Christian adolescents since the beginning of time.
That said, I still wish you wouldn't hit the newsstands.
And I write that with much trepidation, knowing that Letters to the Editor from irate fundamentalist housewives have become as much a part of the ethos and legend of the SI swimsuit issue as the nearly naked girls themselves. Upsetting the prudish is part of the devil-may-care outlaw/renegade ethos that helps you sell big trucks ...