DAN STEINBERG WASHINGTONPOST.COM/D.C. SPORTS BOG
United's Nude Awakening
"You always have that bad dream, where you're naked on the soccer field, you know?" Ben Olsen said Wednesday afternoon. "I've had it before, for sure. You forget your uniform, you're out there, and it just somehow came true during a photo shoot. It was pretty trippy."
I talked to four of the six United players who went ahead and took their clothes off for ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue, which will be unveiled this week, and all four said they went through moments of second-guessing.
"It was definitely bizarre," Olsen said. "Leading up to it, we said yes to it, not really knowing what it was. And then the day came when we really were gonna do this thing, and we were like, 'What did we do? Did we really agree to this?' "
"It was a little bit weird in the beginning," Jaime Moreno agreed. "Different, very different."
"I thought it'd be pretty cool, but I guess reality kind of set in when [PR guy Kyle Sheldon] showed me the picture," Clyde Simms said.
"It hit me hard, too," Santino Quaranta said. "People have been asking me about this since I told them, asking when is it coming out. And I just said, 'I think in October.' But now I'm not telling anybody."
The players, as you can see, were formed in the traditional soccer wall on RFK's field, facing balls driven in their direction by United's equipment manager. Apparently, they were attempting to build a genuine wall, to which Olsen gave high marks.
"It's a pretty good-looking wall, besides the fact that we're all naked," he said. "See, those guys were all flexing. You know, I'm a method actor. And I was really into the wall. A lot of those guys are jumping and flexing; I'm trying to do my duty to block that ball."
Avery John walked by a few moments later and asked what the picture's headline would be.
"The headline is Everybody Flexes Besides Ben," Olsen said.
(Jokes aside, the magazine's editor, Gary Belsky, singled out United's players for praise in a recent conference call. "They were very, very brave," he said. "We asked them to kind of jump around in a way that was both appropriate and hilarious, and they were great, and they were very, very brave.")
As for the reaction from the world at large, rookie Chris Pontius has previously worried that his mother will kill him. Quaranta wondered whether he can show the issue to his 6-year-old daughter. Simms said he told his parents, too, but "I don't think it'll hit them until they actually see it," he added.
Any final observations?
"It makes you look a lot less hairy," Quaranta noted, while looking at Olsen's image.
"I look diesel," Olsen responded.
"I turned down a lot of people asking me to pose nude, and I just finally got sick of turning people down," he also noted. "I said, all right fine, I'm gonna do one. And then I'll never do one again."