- David Fleming, ESPN The Magazine
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[Editor's note: The following story appeared in the 2011 Body Issue of ESPN The Magazine. It continues Playbook's weeklong salute to David Fleming's ... ummm ... "Undercarriage Trilogy." Enjoy!]
SHAUN O'HARA IS TOTALLY NUTS.
When the New York Giants made Eli Manning the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2004, O'Hara -- the team's Pro Bowl center at the time -- welcomed the $54 million quarterback to the big leagues with a prank he first concocted in Cleveland on another naive No. 1 pick, QB Tim Couch. The stunt is of such shockingly brilliant, adolescent grotesqueness that it might just explain, once and for all, why Couch failed to matriculate in the NFL.
Before practice, O'Hara would use the trainer's razor-sharp scissors to make a small incision to the undercarriage of his skin-tight football pants. Like most old-school linemen, he wore a backless jockstrap under his pants and nothing else. After breaking the huddle, on his way to the line of scrimmage, the 300-pound O'Hara would reach around and Houdini his testicles through their trap door before bending over for the snap. When the gung-ho Manning eagerly snuggled up under center, he was greeted by O'Hara's naked dangling orbs.
Today, when asked to elaborate on his testicle tricks, O'Hara pauses for a moment before offering up this cheeky response: "Which one?" Peek-a-ball wasn't the big man's only puerile pastime. Anyone dumb enough to leave a cell phone unattended inside the Giants locker room would likely discover his screensaver had been replaced with a snapshot of the O'Hara boys. As former teammate and defensive end Michael Strahan puts it, "I think Shaun's got ball issues."
Everyone in sports does, actually. Viewed from a different (and safer) angle, O'Hara's pranks expose something far more significant and, at the same time, far more primal. Think about it: What is the most influential, yet least discussed, biological component relating to male sports performance? Yep ... balls.
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Playbook presents the Undercarriage Trilogy
Monday: It happens: the Tao of Poo in sports (Body Issue 2010)
Wednesday: Call of Booty -- Backsides and sports (Body Issue 2012)
Thursday: Flem File supplement and outtakes from Call of Booty
Friday: David Fleming chat, 3 p.m. ET
Follow David Fleming on Twitter @FlemESPN