ESPN The Magazine’s annual Body Issue pays tribute to the time and effort that athletes dedicate to their bodies and ultimately their careers. An athlete’s body is their greatest tool in furthering their careers. In order to be successful, athletes undergo intense training designed to improve and maintain their bodies so that they may deliver their greatest performances. Due to the physical intensity of their jobs, many individuals expect athletes to have unattainable body images. Prince Fielder, 275-pound baseball player, shocked readers by his cover of ESPN The Magazine’s 2014 Body Issue due to his unexpected physical appearance.
After the magazine was released, Fielder was attacked for not following society’s image of an ideal athlete’s body. Fielder was showcased with numerous athletes including NFL player Larry Fitzgerald, NBA player Serge Ibaka, and WNBA player Angel McCoughtry, along with many other athletes that follow society’s ideal image of an athlete’s body. Fielder reacted to the criticism calmly saying that he “work[s] out to make sure [he] can do [his] job to the best of [his] ability” and even jokingly informed his critics that his large arms are hereditary.
Viewer’s critiques of Fielder’s athleticism are widely similar to the critiques of whether an activity is considered a sport, as they are both based on spectator’s perceptions. Anthony Trollope discusses the credentials for an activity to be designated a sport by means of various essays in “British Sports and Pastimes.” Trollope’s essays point out vital components of sports that may go unnoticed or unaccredited by the average viewer by focusing on British sports that have become less popular throughout the years.
Specifically in one of his essays, Trollope focuses on the art of rowing. To the untrained eye the sport can seem simple and effortless. However, Trollope emphasizes the keen senses and abilities that a captain must possess. A captain must be capable of leading his team to victory by managing the team dynamic while also remaining aware of each individual team member’s performance. Therefore, the final product of a successful rowing team may appear to an uncomplicated and effortless run while in fact the sport is extremely trying on each athlete. Trollope’s reading provides insight as to why the phrase “only as strong as the weakest link” is often heavily applied to sports in that the success of the team is based on the combination of each player’s performance.
Just as easily as a spectator may not realize the true complexity of a sport, they may also misjudge an individual’s athletic ability. Fielder’s comment that his workout allows him to perform to “the best of [his] abilities” serves as prime evidence of individuals making judgments based on constructed social ideologies, such as the idea that all athletes must be in impeccable physical shape. Fielder, although currently injured, has slimmed down by incorporating MMA into his training and completing a new weight routine as he consistently adapts his body to the needs of his team. Currently, he is especially focused on performing exercises that allow him to be loose and durable on the field. Fielder credits his change of routine to a fear of failure and desire to contribute to his team’s success. Reasons drive a true athlete.