Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The dude signed an enormous contract for the Tigers today, but the thing that caught my eye were these old photos, posted by the Twitter account @si_vault (complete with a little fat-bashing--of a little kid--yay), which showcases photos of athletes from the Sports lllustrated archives. Here is a young Prince Fielder, shown in two of the photos with his father, former MLB and Tigers player Cecil Fielder (how cute is that first one of him at 9 years old):
Sports journalism being the obsessive thing it is, I am sure Fielder's size has been examined all to hell and back. That's basically how I know his name, from it popping up in conjunction with "too fat?" discussions. (One description of him from The Hardball Times: "Up close, compared to his teammates, he looked like a man among boys. His arms were bigger than my thighs, but he didn't look fat--he just looked huge.")
The thing I think looking at these photos today, when we live with so much emphasis on and hysteria about childhood size, is: how should the world treat kids like him? How did the world treat that kid? Did his family/his dad know he could be a great athlete and more or less let him be himself--let that body be the one he became a great athlete in? How much did he have to fight to become who he was?
A fat, talented kid like that these days--I'm not sure he would have been left alone. I'm not talking about the bullying aspect: he would be put on diets, and sent home from school with notes for his family, and tsked at in various ways. All that stuff happened when I was a kid, and when he was a kid, but without quite the large-scale institutional hysteria that informs most aspects of our discussions of children and food now--the constant chorus of childhood-obesity-childhood-obesity.
You can't know what that kind of stuff will do to a child, but I do know that it usually increases your chance of being fatter, of developing an eating disorder, of yo-yo dieting. How much does our emphasis on size over health interfere with kids becoming who they might be? Is it okay that this little dude grew up to be a famous fattish athlete? Is being a fat child so bad that it is worth the risk of taking away what he might become on the chance you might get him thinner now? Temporarily.