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The Bad Bodied Athlete

Someone topped two party hats with a snowman. Someone has no respect for our strict yet delicate rules of prototype and aesthetics and normal. Someone done made this goofy looking brother, head as big and round as a beachball, into a world class athlete.


He looks like the lovechild of Iman and John Waters. He looks, to reference my sixth-grade girl dictionary, "sweet." B.J. Raji looks like a chubby kid, with a kind heart, and a promising career as a grade school principle. He could make superintendent some day!

But Raji isn't any of those things. He is easy-powerful, the way a defensive tackle must be. Not all rocked up and bulging, but thick through his core and in his legs. Two men struggle to move him a yard. He makes his living doing little more than withstanding. Raji is a bulwark against thousands of pounds of force.

Which is crazy, right? Look at that mug. You can almost see the smoke imbued giggle about to erupt. The downright jolliness -- there's the word -- with which he contorts and thrusts his hips into the air.

Where chubby chasers and twink hunters converge, this is a stag film.

`Course if the Freezer was nothing more than a space eater, he wouldn't be remarkable. Raji would be yet another big dude paid to take abuse and smile about it. Another monger in the trade of mass and immobility. Another anonymous interior lineman, thick as he is fungible.

What separates Raji, made him an earth shaker all the way back to BC, is his ability to move. Raji is Red Bryant with leverage and pass rush moves. A player you double team not so that you can abuse him but so that maybe he doesn't abuse you. When he comes uncorked from a double team, you could melt lead between his legs. It's a shuffling, short-legged, bad-bodied explosion of interior pass rush, and it shows up in his stats: 7.5 sacks through 19 games, 12 quarterback hits, 11 tackles for a loss, and that interception, that beautiful interception.

Someone, some ghost in the genome, some omnipotent trickster, made a man that looks like B.J. Raji that moves like Michael Jackson. Here's hoping this Sunday he reminds Ben Roethlisberger what a car crash feels like.