Friday, July 10, 2009

The Ultimate Fate of the Lingerie Football League

The Lingerie Football League faces a set of different problems that are sure to doom it. Unlike those who chime against the WNBA - namely, those who claim that the WNBA can't succeed because it's played by women and women have cooties - I don't claim that ads for the LFL are being "shoved down my throat" or that there is a international conspiracy to promote the league. I believe that in a universe full of 1000 channels, there is room for every sport.

Here's the problem with the Lingerie Football League - it will be forced to make the choice between being one thing or the other.

If translated properly, the league could rightfully be named the "Women's Underwear Football League". It's sort of a league for people who want to see beautiful women run around in their underwear. Maybe there's always been a fetish out there where these women toss a football around; I don't claim to know.

Most people pretty much laugh such a venture off, claiming that the league will be populated with out-of-work strippers and failed models. But in quite a few press pieces I've read, the players, or the owners, or somebody claim that "this is real football".

There is a danger in allowing these fetishized objects of desire to play real football. The problem is that if you begin playing football, you start wanting your team to win games. An owner of one of these teams might begin thinking that his team of damsels can actually win games. And when winning games becomes important - after all, there is the glamour of the sport's highest prize, the Lingerie Bowl, to think about - people become...well...competitive.

Once you put the thing on a competitive footing, you begin looking for creative interpretations of the rules. True, beauty seems to be The Unspoken Requirement for making a team, one which is never explicitly named but which everyone knows exists. However...the question then becomes beautiful to whom? You know, there are a lot of men out there who like big women. Suppose someone out there with the body of a Wendie Jo Sperber or a Marissa Jaret Winokur wants to play? Now granted, such big women can be blacklisted...but what if there's an influential owner in a big city who threatens to take his team and go home if she can't play? Once you start looking for a winning edge, your standards of beauty begin to expand.

(It would be funny if some losing owner decided to fire his entire team and replace it with a decidedly unbeautiful collection of mean women. Would the league sanction the owner for violation of a non-existent rule?)

Furthermore, if beauty is the key to making the team, is there a rule that you have to remain beautiful? If you want your Hooters girls to pick up some speed...well, there is the Marion Jones way of doing it. It comes in a bottle, and you inject it. Sure, back acne is involved, but who cares if you're two games out of first?

What if your star running back breaks her nose? Nose job time? Yeah, but what if a berth in the Lingerie Bowl is at stake? She might be the first person to say, "To hell with the break, I'll fix it later." As a result, all of the photos are of a Karl Malden lookalike.

Here's the dilemma - if you treat the competition seriously, then after a while, the beauty takes second place. The league will simply become less pretty over time. Great sports players aren't necessarily blessed with the looks of an Adonis or a Venus. Then the players will start demanding better equipment, and before you know it, the LFL establishment becomes what it probably fears becoming - real competitive football, played by non-glamorous women.

If, on the other hand, you put the beauty over the competition, what you get is a glorified version of World Wide Entertainment. A lot of people might watch it, but no one will ever take it seriously, and your fans get the reputation of yahoos. (Notice that the WWE, for all of its attention on TV and glamour, isn't exactly a hot topic of discussion at Around the Horn.)

Because, face it, beauty and competition do not naturally go hand in hand. They must conflict sooner or later, and the LFL must decide which one will prevail. You will either have beautiful women who become less and less skilled over time, or skilled women who become less or less beautiful. The list of women who are extraordinarly beautiful and can play talented seven-on-seven football in a garter belt is simply too small for the ambitions of the league.

Moral: Never let women play pretend football, because they might soon start asking to play real football.

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