No, not the ESPYs. This is print version of their awkward moment.
Just like Tim Howard and Hope Solo last year, Carlos Bocanegra and Abby Wambach represented U.S. Soccer in this year’s Body Issue of ESPN the Magazine. Carlos’s visage can be found here, while Abby appears here as well as in video form:
The video does a good job of capturing what most athletes say about these kind of ventures. There is a mutual appreciation for each other’s accomplishments, and an athlete’s body is an extension of that. Wambach makes that point and talks about her own perceptions of her body (“… my body is very different than most other females”). She and Bocanegra should both be proud.
“Oh, God – that is not warm.”
As much as it’s an honor for the athletes to be recognized in the edition, ESPN’s Body Issue continues to exist at this weird confluence between sports journalism and photo journalism that veers into pure, celebrity magazine-styled entertainment – presentations that tend to be more exploitive or self-serving than artistic. The issues’ pictures of Rob Gronkowski could have been from a Barstool Sports’ Hottest Man in New England spread. It’s unclear how holding a plush smiley face over ones genitals is a profound display of athleticism. At least Bocanegra and Wambach weren’t subjected to that, although Solo was prominently featured watering a lawn in last year’s.
If the magazine is less journalism than entertainment, it can inferred as a viable way for a typically male-catering outlet to reach a different audience. That distinction is no less problematic. While there is something undoubtedly profound about seeing paralympic rowing Oksana Masters sexualized, most depictions are either unimaginatively sensational or unimaginative. How many times can we see Apolo Anton Ohno? That may still be entertainment, but it’s hardly cutting edge content. The magazine may be designed to challenge or provoke, but the most salient questions surround its own utility, not the images.
From a soccer perspective, it’s always interesting to see who ESPN chooses. But that’s about it.