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Shirtless Nats Fan Speaks

(2002 Cubs-based Reuters photo.)

Remember Monday's item about the shirtless Nats fan who was asked to put his shirt back on? Which prompted Wednesday's Style section essay about the meaning of public male shirtlessness in 21st century America? (Slow time in Style, too, I guess.) A highlight:

Let's start with the shirtless fans, part of the fleshy, lardy B-roll of summertime America at its most overexposed, a montage of film that also includes pale thighs, varicose veins and Technicolor sunburns, not to mention that 17-year-old in her far-too-short madras shorts....The Shirts know that bad things can happen when you take off your shirt. If you doubt it, tune into any episode of "Cops," which might be the longest-running game of Shirts against Skins ever. (The score: Shirts 7,593, Skins 0.)

See, context is everything. As did I, Style essayist David Segal had trouble fixing on the proper response without knowing exactly what the original shirtless fan--Alexandria's Benjamin Correia--actually looked like. I mean, no rational person would complain about, say, Tiger Woods baring his torso at the ballgame. But Rush Limbaugh? Thoroughly indecent. Benjamin has also been hampered by The Post's policy of not printing measurements after its letters to the editor; "Who wants to see your fat beer belly?" asked one random e-mailer, after his letter appeared.

So I got Benjamin on the phone yesterday, dragging this issue into its fifth day. Turns out he's a youngish Northern Virginia school teacher, 5-foot-11, about 175 pounds, and not overtly disgusting.

"You know what, I work out all the time," he told me. "I'm fine with taking my shirt off. I understand that there's some people that probably shouldn't, but I consider myself in shape."

So the last possible justification for the indecency usher is gone. The mercury during the game in question was somewhere around 100 degrees, but both Benjamin and his friend complied with the order to be re-shirted. Some other shirtless fans 15 rows ahead of them, however, soon took their shirts back off after the indecency enforcer had departed. He said he was "amazed" at the public response to his brief letter, said he doesn't plan on becoming a sun-addled martyr for this particular cause, and hasn't even decided whether to test the Nationals decency standards again.

"You know what, I didn't think about that yet," he said. "I probably would, just to see what would happen, if it was hot enough out. I wouldn't do it just to start controversy."

So we might need someone else to take up the cause. Or take off the cause. Or whatever.

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 19, 2008; 10:19 AM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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