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Lingerie Football League.jpg

There She Sat. Topless on the Field

By Michael Murray | Film | October 30, 2009 |

By Michael Murray | Film | October 30, 2009 |

The Denver Dream — one of the 10 teams which comprise the Lingerie Football League — call Dick’s Sporting Goods Park their home stadium. This is probably all you really need to know about the operation. Think “Girls Gone Wild” with a football. Indeed, even the names of the teams give off the cheap, chemically aroma of sleazy perfume.

Seattle Mist:

This beguiling scent suggests a woman who is as mysterious and beautiful as the Pacific Northwest itself.

San Diego Seduction:

The woman who wears San Diego Seduction is confident and not afraid to go out and get what she wants, even if it involves a car chase!

Tampa Breeze:

A fine blend of coconut oil and fish, this intriguing fragrance marries the immediacy of the trailer park with the elegance of a Jet Ski.

Initially, lingerie football was nothing more than a demeaning halftime stunt performed during the 2004 Super Bowl. However, this exhibition caught the eye of a great visionary who decided the idea had legs, and now, thanks to founder Mitchell Martoza, we now have an actual league, one with 10 teams spread out across America.

That such a thing has come to exist really isn’t all that surprising. We already have the oily spectacle of pro wrestling, where soap opera sentiments are expressed through choreographed athletics, and of course, there’s Roller Derby, too, but somehow that’s infused with a feminist edge. Knowingly kitschy, the athletes are in control, creating theatrical personae for themselves they fashion a solidarity within their ranks that manages to keep the event separate from the leering masculine eye.

I’m not so sure that’s the case with the Lingerie Football League.

When the Miami Caliente played their very first game in the brand new league, their QB had her top ripped off.

“The dirtiest play of the game,” said Caliente player Michelle Stevens, “was when our QB, Anonka Dixon, had her bra ripped off. There she sat, topless on the field.”

Yes, I’m sure that such an act utterly besmirched the integrity of the Lingerie Football League.

As much as the hairpieces who preside over the games tell us how “serious and mean” the players are, it’s worth noting that the heaviest player in the league, who stands 6’2,” still weighs less than 150 pounds. There are no fatties spilling out of their, um, “uniforms,” nor is there any empowered dyke culture trying to subvert a masculine convention. No, the vast majority of the players are under 25, and they’re hot, all there to please the male eye.

Of course, it’s nothing new that we favor the beautiful, even in sports. I won’t even bother to investigate what sort of role beauty has in the judging of something like figure skating, and merely mention that at Wimbledon, kind of lousy, but really pretty players, are routinely given center court preference, where in short skirts, they emit kittenish grunts and toss their hair.

And so, Lingerie Football delivers exactly what it promises, a bunch of near-models running around in their underwear pretending to be football players.

They wear panties and bras, elbow, knee and shoulder pads and a helmet. They look like Cyborg warriors from the future, by which I mean American Gladiators, an obvious inspiration for the visual aesthetic of the league.

As a recent broadcast began, fireworks exploded all over the place. Quickly, the camera cut to shots of the players, all cast in beguiling shadow, as they seductively suited up for the big game. And then, like a lightning flash, we see shots of hard-hitting action while percussive, shooter-game music thunders. We cut back to the locker room, where the girls are wiggling and touching themselves like the pin-up stars they always wanted to be.

The camera pans through the crowd and we see nothing but men. They all have a sheepish, slightly idiotic look to them, like they’re only there for the cheap beer and are wondering where the Go-Karts might be.

The game itself zips by, consisting of two 17-minute halves. The rules are standard Arena Football stuff, I think, but really, who cares?

However, in spite of the fact that the T & A is the primary attraction, they actually seem to know how to play football. They’re not a bunch of jiggling Playmates tickling one another and then running away, frightened, from the football. No, these women call plays, and then execute them. Yes, and the camera lingers as they bend over into their huddle, and when they explode into action, the slick-voiced announcers celebrate whatever masculine aggression they display.

The white-guy refs, who are presiding over the action on the field, are slightly older than middle-aged. They loom over the girls the way that pro players tower above officials in the NFL. They move slowly, as if it’s difficult for them to maintain their interest, like they’re policing the actions of children on a playground.

The games are a ridiculous spectacle, the sort of thing that could be a Vegas show or a South Park musical. For instance, after one touchdown, the celebration in the end zone consisted of one girl riding on the back of another, you know, in the classy and sportsman-like bucking bronco style.

For whatever reason, the Lingerie Football League still tries to fob itself off as real football instead of just a family-friendly kind of porn. But sometimes, beneath the imposition of this masculine, sports industry authority, an honest sense of play, of fun, actually bubbles up.

I saw one post-game interview in which a player was simply beaming. Breathlessly, she detailed an excellent and surprising play she was in on, and it was clear that she’d had an absolutely great time finding out something about herself that she didn’t know before. I swear to God, as ridiculous as this sounds, it was an incredibly sincere and sweet moment, a refreshing antidote to the joyless and stoic professionalism we most often see in sports.

But make no mistake, the Lingerie Football League is as crass and exploitive as a basement strip club, but sometimes it shows us that the rest of the sports we watch on TV are, too.

Michael Murray is a freelance writer. For the last three and a half years he’s written a weekly column for the Ottawa Citizen about watching television. He presently lives in Toronto. You can find more of his musings on his blog, or check out his Facebook page.

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