Prince Fielder to appear nude in ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue”

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ESPN The Magazine puts out its “Body Issue” every summer. While couched in terms of physical ideals and the beauty of the athletic specimen and blah, blah, blah, it’s basically ESPN’s answer to the swimsuit issue: cheesecake to sell magazines during the slow season.

Hey, everyone’s gotta make a buck. And at least with ESPN it’s an equal opportunity affair, with men’s bodies getting the same cheesecake treatment as women’s. I mean, sure, you can try to speak all high-mindedly about what they’re after here, but a naked Matt Harvey with a room service tray is way more about providing a springboard to a fantasy than anything else. As for the athletes: they got it, so it’s not our place to criticize them for flaunting it.

But this year it is taking a direction we’ve not really seen before:

The keystone to the issue is the “Bodies We Want” section, where athletes will be featured in tasteful nude poses.

Swimmer Michael Phelps, tennis star Venus Williams, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Texas Rangers slugger Prince Fielder and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka will be included in the issue.

Wait, what?

Texas Rangers slugger Prince Fielder

Um, really?

Texas Rangers slugger Prince Fielder

Well, then. Maybe it’s not all about athletic ideals in ways I had not yet considered.