Sports: For Love of the...Um...Game (2009)
Web extra: Video of a Dallas Desire practice with running back Erin Marie Garrett's thoughts on the upcoming season.
OK, you can stop with the sniggering, Mr. Football Fan. And you, Ms. Feminist, don't grimace. Yes, we're talking about the Dallas Desire here, our city's franchise in the U.S. Lingerie Football League, but there will be no double entendres, puns or high-minded condemnations of sexual exploitation.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. To be a player on an LFL team, you have to be, if not a 10, at least somewhere north of an eight. And yes, the players—many of them models or actresses—take the field in sports bras and boy shorts. Sex appeal is certainly the selling point, but believe it or not, there's more than jiggles and giggles driving the Desire, which plays its first home game September 25 against the Denver Dream at QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie.
There is, for instance, the football.Think they're not serious? Then picture the scene on a recent August afternoon on a field behind Hendrick Middle School in Plano. The sun is drilling down 95 degrees of hell, and the nearest breeze is somewhere near Lubbock. A dozen or so women, tanned and toned from a summer schedule of twice-weekly practices, don helmets and shoulder pads and line up for wind sprints.
Nary a giggle or tee-hee is heard."No walking on the field! No walking on the field!" a coach shouts, urging a few stragglers to hustle as the squad lines up for a series of practice kickoffs. "Attack, Liz, attack!" shouts another as the players scramble down the field in pursuit of a kick.
Being pretty shouldn't be this much hard work.
"We've heard some say it's degrading for women," says Erin Marie Garrett, who plays both running back and defensive line. "[But] we are athletes...Who's to say you can't look good while doing something and do it well?"
Like most players on the Desire, Garrett will play both sides of the ball, since the team only fields a 12-woman roster, with eight inactive players as backups. It's seven-on-seven, full-contact tackle, but there's no punting or field goals, the halves are 15 minutes long, and the field is just 50 yards. Otherwise, it's pretty much football as usual. Like this year's Best of Dallas® icon Rosie the Riveter, these women do everything men do. Only cuter. It's sort of like subbing the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders for America's Team on a Sunday—which, come to think of it, might not be a bad idea.
Off the field, Garrett models, acts, sings and works part-time in retail. If the league, which got its start as a half-time diversion shown on pay-per-view during Super Bowls, is successful, she hopes to parlay the exposure to boost her career off the field. Beyond that, though, the Desire gives her camaraderie with her teammates and a chance to exercise her competitive spirit. (She's played basketball and volleyball and performed in gymnastics and cheerleading in college in Florida.)
"A lot of us are competitive in nature..." Garrett says. "I like to hit hard. It's really a great way to get out some aggression and do it legally."
Sometimes, those hits bring pain.
Running back and defensive linewoman Jessy Jamez—also a model—was sitting out the recent practice with a pulled hamstring injured during tackling drills in a prior practice.
"It felt like I was going to be out the rest of the year, that's how bad it hurt," Jamez says, but she hopes to be ready to retake the field as the team ups its practices to four nights a week, three hours a night—not exactly NFL standards, but a fairly large commitment and a measure of how seriously this team of part-time players takes the game. "The lingerie portion of it is to entice people to the game," Jamez says. "After that, they want to see us play."
To make sure the play is up to snuff, the Desire has hired ex-NFL players as coaches. Head coach Antuan Edwards, for example, was drafted in the first round out of Clemson University in 1999 and played seven seasons in the pros, five of them as a defensive back for Green Bay. "Pretty women, you can see every day at the shopping mall," Edwards says, so when the Desire suits up fans will expect to see some football. "You guys are going to be amazed when we get on the field."
Well, one imagines that's the point of anything called lingerie football, but to be fair to the women, so what? There's beauty in the body of a finely chiseled athlete, in a long pass, a graceful kick return. Aesthetics is as much a part of our enjoyment of the game as cold beer, and if the Desire emphasizes the beautiful over the brutal in football...well, just sit back, enjoy the show and contemplate the sage words of Deion Sanders.
"When you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you play good."Patrick Williams
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