Beneath the Uniform

Last Sunday found me curled up on the sofa next to Brock, my trusty laptop in my hands, watching the Braves lose to Detroit while I Googled, “Naked baseball players.”

Perhaps an explanation is needed here. I didn’t really want to see naked baseball players; I was looking for baseball players in their underwear.

Stay with me:)

I am relatively new to world of sports; I only started watching when Brock and I began dating three years ago. Since I have an interest in health and fitness, I was immediately drawn to learn about the training programs for the various sports and teams. I was already familiar with football training, thanks to my teenage subscription to Muscle and Fitness. I also knew the effect of that training on their bodies – not only did M&F prominently feature these men, but their nearly bare bodies can be seen in national ads.

But not so with baseball players. They are much more secretive.

My search began with curiosity about  their butts. At my first Braves game, I immediately noticed that the read ends of the players were quite prominent. I wondered if that was a result of selection bias or training. Not surprisingly, it is a bit of both. Scouts look for big butts and thighs because that is where the power comes from. Then, training focuses on developing that explosive force which leads to greater muscular development.

But I still wasn’t satisfied. I was curious about what lay beneath the uniforms, as many of these men appeared to be rather chunky, especially for pro athletes. I made an assumption based upon their thick lower bodies and blousy tucked-in shirts.

Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me and I turned to the all-knowing Google for answers. My first queries were tamer – “baseball player physiques”, “baseball players shirtless” and “baseball players in underwear”. No luck. Apparently, baseball players like to hide their bodies as much as football players like to display theirs.

I summoned my courage and typed, “Naked baseball players.”

Not a search I would necessarily recommend. But it was enlightening.

Not surprisingly, my assumptions were wrong. Some of the players are certainly carrying some extra weight but many others hide six-pack abs under their voluminous shirts. The uniforms may be identical yet the players they cover are unique and resist stereotypes.

It was a reminder about the uniforms that we all wear in our lives. The outward presentation that does not always match the inside.

It takes courage to remove your uniform and reveal the vulnerable self beneath. To show the world who you are without the socially-approved costume disguising your form.

People make assumptions based upon what we show them. Those labels can persist, even though they may not be accurate or inclusive. We can feel comfortable behind the uniform, fearing that to remove it would be to stand out too much from the crowd, perhaps painting us as the weak gazelle at the back of the pack.

The trick to being comfortable revealing what hides behind your outward attire is to accept our naked, authentic selves. To understand that that the seemingly perfect facades worn by others are hiding their own vulnerable  selves.

I learned a parallel lesson as a child who frequented campgrounds with their not-so-private showers and hippie-friendly festivals. I grew up observing all types of bodies – young and old, fat and thin, smooth and wrinkled with age. Those experiences did more for me developing a healthy self-image and attitude about my body than any after school special could ever have achieved. I saw the “perfect” bodies marred by scars that were only visible out of clothes. I grew to appreciate the tales of children born upon the abdomens of the women and the sagging skin over once-filled biceps on the men. Under the clothes, people were at once more unique and more similar than they could ever be when shielded by their attire.

Our internal selves are no different. We shield them from public view.  The men I met while dating who appeared to be the toughest were wearing their tattoos, leather and muscles to hide their insecurities. The women I know who are super polished and put together are often afraid of losing control. I, myself, can hide behind my analytical attire, hiding my more emotional self with the fear that it will not be accepted.

I’m trying to use my lessons from childhood to shed this uniform, this comfortable shield.

It’s scary at first, revealing who you are, but the freedom that comes from shedding the uniform is unbelievable. We are more alike underneath than we often realize and yet we each have our own unique beauty. Don’t hide yourself – you have much to offer as you are.

But I still caution you against Googling “Naked baseball players.”

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