|Are you ready for some football?|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
LOS ANGELES -- Even as I write this, Martha Burk is probably setting up a picket line around the stadium.
And to think, we used to get excited about Spuds MacKenzie and the Bud Bowl. A Lingerie Bowl with model/actresses? If Vince McMahon had thought of this, the XFL would still be around.
"It's all about having good, clean fun," Lawrence Taylor said. "There are 250,000 channels, and we have to give people an alternative to watch."
Taylor is the Team Euphoria coach, and Eric Dickerson is the Team Dream coach. Sure, the Lingerie Bowl might seem a little borderline at first ... er, blush. But as long as L.T. is involved, you know this is going to be nothing but class.
I should point out that the Lingerie Bowl appears to have no official connection with the actual Super Bowl. It's strictly a pay-per-view event ($20) that is being marketed as substitute viewing to the Super Bowl's standard halftime show. Because you know the NFL would never be involved with a project that doesn't treat women with the utmost respect and dignity. At the very least, the league would require them to wear Go-Go boots with their hotpants.
While you take a break now to place an order with your cable operator, I'll just wait here and ponder some of the pressing questions surrounding the Lingerie Bowl. Questions such as:
What playing surface does the Lingerie Bowl use? Natural grass, artificial turf or Jell-o?
Will the game's organizers test for implants? If so, can I help?
Will they fine players for not wearing their fishnet stockings high enough?
Are there incentive bonuses for making the All-Frederick's of Hollywood Team?
And most importantly, should we refer to this as Lingerie Bowl I, Lingerie Bowl 2004 or Lingerie Bowl 38C?
Or, come to think of it (and with all apologies to that college game in the Bay Area), wouldn't it be more accurate to call this the Silicone Valley Bowl?
Practice makes perfect
The first disappointment at the Lingerie Bowl's kickoff press conference/practice in early December was that none of the players was actually wearing lingerie. Or, they might have been wearing underwear but they wore it under their shorts and cropped T-shirts. Apparently, the lingerie uniforms are being reserved for the big game. I almost drove back to LAX for a flight home right then and there.
Actually, "practice" is far too grand a description for what took place. It was more like a photo shoot for Maxim. While players tossed an occasional pass, for the most part they stood around and posed for pictures.
"Could you turn around and look back at me over your shoulder?" one photographer asked a player. She refused, telling him, "I don't show my ass."
Well, of course not. She may play football in her underwear on national TV, but she has standards.
More than 250 women auditioned for the Lingerie Bowl. Twenty-six were chosen, not counting the cheerleaders. (And doesn't having cheerleaders at the Lingerie Bowl seem like piling on?) The teams will play the 20-minute game on an indoor, 70-yard field. They'll practice twice a week until the big game.
"Who knows where this will lead?" Team Euphoria center Sara Fitzpatrick said. "This is exciting -- it's like a reality show. Who knows where girls will go from here?"
Who knows? More pointedly, who cares? Frankly, I just want to know how Eric Dickerson got involved. L.T., I can understand. Good Lord, L.T. would referee a cockfight if there was a paycheck involved. But why did Dickerson lend his name to this? You can't tell me Keyshawn Johnson wasn't available.
The answer, it seems, is simple. Jim McMahon dropped out.
"It's not like I'm doing a striptease on the field or I'm out on the street corner doing a buck-naked dance. I have standards," Dickerson replied when asked whether he felt at all uncomfortable coaching in the Lingerie Bowl. "Every person I told about this has said, 'Wow, can I come? Do you need any help? Can I be your assistant coach?'
"Besides, you're here, too, right?"
Well, he had me there. Plus, it's not like coaching the Lingerie Bowl is a grueling schedule. Jon Gruden might be at the office 24/7, but Dickerson and Taylor aren't even required to show up at practices. "I will show up at practice, though," Dickerson said. "I want to make sure I get the girls at the right positions."
That's the sort of dedication that made him a Hall of Fame running back.
Dickerson approached this week's press-conference gig with an appropriate sense of humor, and even showed genuine interest in his players' abilities. L.T., on the other hand, refused to answer questions about his new book -- his publisher is going to love that policy -- which pretty much restricted his role to introducing his players, staring at their figures and repeatedly saying, "Wow."
When I asked L.T. whether he planned to send gigolos to Team Dream's hotel in hopes of tiring out his opponent before the big game, he scowled and said, "Don't even ask a question like that. Don't EVEN ask. That's not EVEN funny. OK, that's it. We're done."
And then he walked away.
I guess it's a good thing I didn't lead with my question about whether his team would be subject to drug tests.
All these women are in exceptional shape -- trust me, I checked -- but their football skills are about what you would expect from lingerie model/actresses. In what amounted to his team's practice session, L.T. lobbed a 10-yard pass to running back Roban Lampkin and it bounced off her hands. "OK," Taylor apologized. "I threw that too hard."
Hmmmm. If the players don't improve dramatically before the big contest, I'm afraid this game could set the cause of women's professional football back at least an hour.
Everhart is listed as Team Euphoria's quarterback, but she didn't attend the first "practice" because she has a bad back and was resting it. (I just pray that she doesn't have to go through that whole Brett Favre thing because of it.) Meanwhile, there is a quarterback controversy brewing on Team Dream.
Ziering, whose website resumé cites guest-starring roles in "Silk Stockings" and "The Bold and the Beautiful," is listed as Team Dream's quarterback, was introduced as the team's quarterback and, naturally enough, is counting on being the team's quarterback. "I never thought in my career I would be quarterback on Super Bowl Sunday," she said. "All my guy friends are so jealous. It will be a moment in my life that I will never forget."
Unfortunately, Dickerson actually wants to win this game -- don't ask me why -- and he isn't convinced Ziering is the woman he wants calling audibles at the line. "We may have to make some position changes," he said.
No doubt, Dickerson will be hearing from Ziering's agent.
Ziering says she enjoys martial arts and kick-boxing, but Dickerson is concerned about her lack of football experience. When a TV reporter asked Ziering to name her favorite quarterback, she couldn't come up with one. She finally offered, "That Bucs guy." Then she requested that reporters not ask any more "football trivia."
I couldn't resist asking Nikki about her football background, though.
"Well, I've been to Super Bowl parties," she said with a smile. "I normally don't even know who wins the game.
"My football background ... Hmmm ... I just ... well ..."
She gave up and shrugged. "None."
"I just want to play a good game and be prepared," Ziering said. "Considering that I hardly even know how to hold a football, I need to work hard."
There didn't seem to be much point in asking whether she planned to run the West Coast offense.
Dickerson, meanwhile, was impressed by Jennifer Birmingham, a 22-year-old aspiring actress out of LSU who knows her stuff. She plays center field in softball, is good friends with USC quarterback John David Booty and displayed a strong, accurate arm in a brief game of catch. She even stomped her foot as if directing the offense before taking a snap.
I'm not sure how the Ziering/Birmingham controversy will shake down, but at least Ziering now has an answer to those thorny "football trivia'" questions. After that awkward exchange about her favorite quarterback, a publicist sidled up to Ziering just before my interview and whispered, "Your favorite quarterback is Joe Montana."
Playing with protection
The players won't be wearing only lingerie. They'll also have elbow and knee pads, as well as a helmet that Fitzpatrick described as similar to a hockey helmet. "They don't want anyone getting hurt," Fitzpatrick said, though I suppose she ought to check with coach Taylor about that first.
Oddly, none of the models/actresses I spoke with said they'll feel at all self-conscious playing football in their underwear with national TV cameras zooming in for closeups.
"I'm no more self-conscious playing in my underwear than I would be playing in my sweats," Ziering said. "Should I be self-conscious?" She paused. "I guess I should. But that's just me. That's what I do."
And why should she feel self-conscious? Paris Hilton is an uber-celebrity thanks to a videotape that shows her having sex. The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is one of the most anticipated specials of the year. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is a winter ritual. The Abercrombie and Fitch Christmas catalogue includes so much sex that this year's theme must have been "I saw Mommy Doing Santa Claus."
In such a world, how far a stretch is a lingerie football game? Besides, their underwear isn't much skimpier than what NFL cheerleaders wear every week.
"I just don't want to be sacked," Birmingham said. "We don't want anything falling out."
No, the producers certainly wouldn't want that happening.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.