OK, it’s a little early for baseball’s division races to heat up. It’s a little early for serious NFL contemplation with training camps not set to start for another week or so. You really want to focus on NBA free agency until players actually sign? It’s not exactly prime time for hockey. The ESPY Awards were last week.
All of which means it’s just about perfect time for ESPN the Magazine’s annual Body Issue. It became available on newsstands on Friday (July 13) — in case you were unaware. The magazine is a celebration of the athlete’s body — male and female.
The tendency around here is to focus on the female.
Among those featured in the 2012 version is Candace Parker of the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks. You can see more of Parker — well, not more skin, if that’s what your inclincation is — in the Olympics Games in London, where she will be competing for the U.S. team looking to repeat its gold-medal performance of 2008.
Before heading to England, the U.S. team faces Brazil in an exhibition Monday (July 16) in Washington. In practice Sunday, the women scrimmaged a team of men, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. A former co-captain on Harvard’s team, Duncan played professionally from 1987-1991 in Australia.
No, it wasn’t shirts vs. skins.
Asked to assess Duncan’s play, U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said: “We gave him a little bit of a hard time. He’s in the government service now, so he did the same thing on the court: he just passed the ball to guys. But I’ve always been a big fan of his, and he knows how to play. He’s tricky, boy, he threw a couple of behind-the-back passes, the sly politician that he is.”
How did Duncan end up on the court?
“One, he’s a huge basketball fan,” Auriemma said. Two, [DePaul women's coach] Doug Bruno is from Chicago and knows Arne. Arne’s sister went to Doug’s camp every year, so there’s a little bit of a connection between those two guys. Plus, it’s like we’ve got the Chicago mafia here, you know? Not even counting President [Barack] Obama. We’ve got Jerry Colangelo, Mike Krzyzewski, Doug Bruno, all these Chicago people, Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker, we’ve just got a lot of Chicago stuff going on here. I guess it was only natural that he wanted to show up, get a little bit of a run in with our guys. It was great to see him, it really was.”
“These ladies can play,” Duncan said, “It was a lot of fun. I’m just amazed they’ve been playing together for two days. It was as if they were playing for two months together. The precision, the toughness, the timing, it was just extraordinary to see after a day or two. They’re going to be tough.
“I’ve played with a couple of them from the past. Sylvia [Fowles] is from Chicago [center on the WNBA's Sky]. I’ve played with Tamika in the NBA celebrity game the past couple of years. So I was thrilled when they asked. It was fun to be a part of. These are world, world-class athletes.”
“Practice went well,” Fowles said. “Intense as always. Coach is expecting a lot out of all of us, which is a good thing because he sees our potential. I’m just happy to be a part of the team again.”
Of the contest vs Brazil, Parker said, “I think it’ll be a good test for us. Obviously Brazil has historically been in the top five teams in the world. It’s going to be a good match, a good test for us in our first game before we head over to London.”
Abby Wambach also is among the athletes in the 2012 ESPN the Magazine Body Issue (kind of that pubication’s attempt to rival Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue — minus the swimsuits). The soccer star discusses her participation:
As long as we’re talking about nudity, there was some on display over the weekend at Exxxotica Chicago 2012 at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill. Here is some of the fun from the festivities:
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