by GRAHAM AVERILL

I’m all for personal freedom—except when that personal freedom infringes on my well-being, which is what happened at a recent trail race when I happened to glance up from my hamstring stretch to see some old guy’s balls.

He was doing a similar stretch, but his posture was far more “spread eagle” than mine, and his shorts were a bit on the Richard Simmons side of short. You know what I’m talking about: the really skimpy running shorts with the slit up the sides. I think those things usually have a liner, but he must have cut his out because his junk was practically splayed out on the grass like a yard sale.

Runners will defend their tiny shorts to the grave, saying they don’t chafe or bind. But I have to wonder, how short do your shorts really need to be to help you run faster? Would an extra two inches of nylon fabric really slow you down?

I’m not really buying the whole “performance” argument anyway. You know what else doesn’t chafe or bind? Cut-off jean shorts. They’re surprisingly sporty. Why do you think rednecks always wear them for the Appalachian Triathlon (rock jumping, beer drinking, and porch sitting)? If all you’re concerned about is chafing, why not take the scissors to an old pair of acid-washed jeans and run in denim?

I think runners secretly like those short shorts not because of the enhanced performance, but because the shorts are a status symbol. They say, “Look at me! I’m sacrificing my modesty, dignity, and fashion sense for performance. Therefore, I must be a serious runner!”

Okay, you’re faster than me, but does that give you the right to practically moon me when you pass me in the local 5K? I’m not asking you to wear capris, but something that covers up the milk and cookies would be nice.

I probably shouldn’t single runners out. The truth is a lot of outdoor athletes make some questionable fashion decisions. I spent the last half of the ‘80s skiing in a bright pink jacket and aqua green bibs. You think that’s bad? Check out pictures of rock climbers in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. For some reason, they were prone to wearing bright-colored lycra tights with chili-peppers and lightning bolts printed on them. Mullets were apparently part of the uniform, too.

Then there are the mountain bikers who wear full-body spandex. You’re riding rocky singletrack at six miles per hour—do you really need to cut wind resistance by wearing spandex so tight it forms a suction cup on your sphincter? Wear some baggy shorts—your ride partners will thank you.

But no choice affects the well-being of others like men in tiny running shorts. There are hundreds of other people running the race with you. When you plop down at the starting line to stretch your hammies, we’re all subjected to a view that only your urologist should ever have. That kind of image can cause serious emotional scars.

Think about the tiny gray shorts your phys-ed coach wore. Those shorts were so tight, you could tell if he was a “lefty” or a “righty” (and I’m not talking about his pitching arm). Remember how uncomfortable those shorts made you feel when he demonstrated how to do lunges? That’s the kind of discomfort you’re causing everyone else at the 5K. I understand you want to have the fastest run of your life, but you’re doing it at our expense. We’re the ones who have to look at your pasty white thighs and, on occasion, your Johnsonville Brat. So please, invest in a couple of inches of extra fabric and keep your family jewels in the treasure chest.