OK, here goes: I don't much care for women's sports. Because, let's face it, they're inferior.
Call me a sexist, chauvinistic pig if you must. Just admit I'm right. It's not that I don't think women should work or vote or be astronauts or president. It's just that I don't like to be conned into thinking women can compete athletically with men.
The WNBA doesn't do it. Annika Sorenstam couldn't do it. Nor Michelle Wie or Danica Patrick or even Venus or Serena Williams. Do what they do, that is, as good or better than their male counterparts. For the most part, women's athletics is akin to the knockoff Dooney & Burke purses in Times Square.
Similar but not the same.
Anna Kournikova looked good losing. Erin Andrews is sex over substance. There's a reason women runners get a head start at the Dallas White Rock Marathon. Right?
Great as they are, the Williams' sisters have never hit a shot that 100 different men's players haven't hit hundreds of times. Same with Wie. And that goes for incoming, dunk-happy Baylor freshman center Brittney Griner, whose arrival into college basketball from Houston's Aldine Nimitz High School is being similarly trumpeted to the revolutionary tune of Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas University in 1956.
Women's athletics about 50 years behind men's? Sounds about right.
Which brings us to last Friday night at Grand Prairie's QuikTrip Park and something called the Lingerie Football League. Skepticism in tow, this I had to see for myself.
"Tits 'n' ass, man," says Ennis' Gerard Buckholm, one of about 500 fans who've come out for the Dallas Desire's game against the Los Angeles Temptation. "I mean, look at 'em. Girls with those kinds of bodies running around in bras and panties and tackling each other. That's our fantasy, right?"
The sex appeal is unmistakable.
The Desire and Temptation players wear tiny, curve-hugging, bun-exposing panties and provocative bras, accented by what amounts to downsized shoulder pads and hockey helmets. There is cleavage. There are catcalls. If possible, there are more cameras than spectators. And when the centers bend over to snap the ball between their legs, there is little left to the imagination.
"We're obviously in itty-bitty lingerie," Desire running back Erin Marie Garrett says. "So if guys show up the first time hoping something falls out, that's OK."
Something did, in fact, in the form of a nipple peek after a touchdown. Which, of course, was followed by a saucy end-zone dance and accessorized all night by knee-high pink socks, impromptu sideline hip wiggling and nubile females constantly adjusting their minuscule fabric to cover their cellulite-free bodies.
At halftime of some sporting events, fans get a chance to make a half-court shot or kick a field goal for money. The Dallas Desire? A male fan won a drawing for the right to tackle a player at midfield.
But before you pay for your ticket in folded one-dollar bills, notice something else.
Let me make this perfectly clear: The Dallas Desire isn't a pillow fight or a panty raid or Powder Puff football. It's sweat and muscles and eye black and shaved heads and bloody knees and full contact and, well, tackle football played by athletes who could kick my ass.
Enter a Desire game expecting more soft porn than hard tackling; leave realizing the women weren't kidding when in pre-game warm-ups they chanted the chorus from Drowning Pool's "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor!"
The Desire are coached by Antuan Edwards, a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1999. Quarterback Linda Brenner can throw a 30-yard spiral. Safety Gabrielle Marie hits harder and wraps up more efficiently than the Dallas Cowboys' Ken Hamlin. And receiver Candis Mosley humbles her boyfriend—reality-show winner and Cowboys practice squad receiver Jesse Holley.
"It's closer to real football than I thought it would be," Holley says. "They're beautiful women and they're not wearing much. I mean, that's good to look at, but they're not playing touch. They're tackling without much padding. They're tough girls. I've fallen in love with this team."
The LFL plays 7-on-7 football on a 50-yard long field without goal posts but with roving TV cameramen on the field and in the huddles. A DJ blares music—Lady Gaga indeed—during plays. It's more visually stimulating than violently choreographed and more XFL than NFL. And, to say the least, the 10-team league, whose championship game (Lingerie Bowl VII) February 7 will be televised via pay-per-view, has its critics.
While the Desire are more lipstick linebackers equally adept at glamour as gridiron, just across town reside the Dallas Diamonds, a real football team—11 players, regulation field and rules—that has won four International Women's Football League championships the last eight seasons. It's not a rivalry. And there will never be a game.
Though after beating the Temptation, 24-12, the Desire are 3-0 and guaranteed a semifinal playoff berth in Miami, they will never have the Diamonds' respect.
"I'm not a fan of the Desire myself," says Diamonds owner Dawn Berndt, whose team plays its games at Hurst's Pennington Field and is in the midst of open tryouts for its upcoming season. "They're doing their thing, which for the most part is selling sex. But you can't compare what we do because it's apples and oranges. We play football. What they do is Victoria's Secret on grass. They're gorgeous women, and they must have an amount of athleticism but let's face it, they play in their underwear wearing lacrosse helmets. That's not football."
It is, however, successful. While the Diamonds will next year be a part of a USA Football team that plays in the first Women's World Bowl against international teams in Stockholm, Sweden, the Desire celebrated their Friday win with victory dances and yelps of "Miami!"
"We've been training for seven months, practicing four days a week for three hours a day," Garrett says. "We hear people say it's not real football, but let's see them get out and take a hit. There are some cute girls and that helps us in attracting attention. But if we're just going through the motions and not playing good football, the fans won't come back. I just hope we've proved that you can be pretty like an Anna Kournikova or Gabrielle Reece or Danica Patrick and still be a super athlete."
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How long the Desire will last in Dallas is anybody's guess. The wins on the field haven't led to big crowds or a significant niche in the area's crowded sports landscape. There are rumblings about a move next season indoors to American Airlines Center or possibly even a move out of Dallas to a smaller market.
Even if the Desire win the LFL, the Diamonds won't recognize them as the queens of Dallas women's football.
"If we ever played them in a game of football—real football—obviously we'd cream them," Berndt says. "Our biggest victory has been 98-0. It would greatly exceed that."
Girls will be girls.