Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Commentary: SI swimsuit issue is a relic of yesteryear

Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES – What do I know from beauty? I live in Los Angeles, where apartment buildings look like penitentiaries and our lushest landscaping is Selena Gomez’s hair.

But of this I’m sure: The Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is no longer a beautiful thing. It is a musty relic of another time, a Debbie Reynolds musical. As with top hats and spats, this annual rite of winter no longer looks good on anybody.

That is why I’m calling – gasp! – for the end of the SI swimsuit edition.

Yes, it might be a sign of the apocalypse, or maybe a sports cynic’s seen-it-all sensibilities. I flip the pages, and where once my fingers trembled with anticipation, now I just shrug. Oh, young women get sweaty and roll in the sand? Did that poor girl put on enough sunblock?

The Greeks got it right. The human body is magnificent and should be properly celebrated. There is nothing finer – not a sunset, not a Lamborghini – - than human muscles in full fire. The way they flex. The sinew. The S-curves between shoulders and neck. Chisel those chiseled quads in marble and make a masterpiece.

So don’t get me wrong. In general, I’m pro-nudity. The only reason I watch the Oscars is because those little trophies appear in the buff.

Even in its time, the swimsuit issue was a waste of time. But I understood it, embraced it, enjoyed it for what it was. Like you, I fought with buddies over the merits of Tiegs vs. Brinkley vs. Macpherson, debated with the spitty vehemence of Koufax vs. Gibson vs. Spahn.

In its heyday, the swimsuit edition was a triumph of timing. It arrived when we needed it the most – in February, not just the worst sports month but the worst four-week pit of the year, filled with Christmas bills and dark obligation.

Into that pit came the swimsuit issue to warm our wintry hearts. Especially in cold, clammy climes, the swimsuit issue was like a burst of Malibu beach, delivered directly to your mailbox.

As with so many things, time sapped the swimsuit edition’s novelty. Since the issue’s debut in 1964, the world has become a coarse and twerky place. A sheer bikini no longer stops traffic. In college, they wear less to class.

Meanwhile, ogling is so 1978. Often, it is prosecuted.

Struggling to stay prurient in these lubricious times, Sports Illustrated tried to shake things up along the way. Art directors began painting on the bikinis. For some reason, this just made the entire situation more desperate. Were you to study when the swimsuit edition began to lose its mojo, you could trace it to the moment some assistant showed up with a gallon of Sherwin-Williams semigloss.

Folks, if you need something to paint, how about my porch?

Now, of course, there are multiple covers and plus-size models. The bigger the better, I say, and this call for an end to the swimsuit issue has nothing to do with that. The concept is just done. Like Crocs and love songs. Like Billy Ray Cyrus’ career.

No, I don’t know what replaces the swimsuit edition. February will remain awful forever. A big part of that is the end of football season, which always puts us into a national funk.

And, frankly, the chances of the issue’s demise seem weak. The swimsuit edition is robust with ads. More and more in life, money lust exceeds our better judgment.

We’ll never take the sex appeal out of sports, nor should we. These days, I find a female athlete in action more appealing than some lacquered model snoozing in the sand. You can wring your hands about objectifying women, but it’s not just women whom we objectify. It’s athletes in general. As the Greeks realized, they look better when they’re moving at full fire.

Who are we to resist? Alex Morgan, Tom Brady, California Chrome – admire the artwork, pick your passion.

In the end, it’s the fleet and the furious we should be celebrating.

So, ditch the bikinis. Lace up the cleats. Play on.