Follow the bouncing bikini — er, ball


(Reprinted from Oct. 11 2012)

  Once and for all, we’ll learn the definitive answer to a long-burning question:
  Do those men claiming to like women’s sports truly admire female athletes or only the ones whose most notable statistics have no connection whatsoever with the games they play?
  Guys preferring to share meals and other married activities with wives on a regular basis will, of course, tell their spouses exactly what the ladies want to hear. Those males will insist that watching Maria Sharapova in action is no different than following the exploits of Tom Brady or Alex Rodriguez, and that they’re attracted only to the beauty of tennis, not of the tennis player.

  Funny, though, how watching that same sport wasn’t so high on men’s to-do lists when Martina Navratilova was the world’s best women’s player.
  Let’s be honest, the sex appeal-sells method isn’t only used to market cologne, clothing and most other consumer products. Athletics also employ a similar tactic to draw notice if the opportunity presents itself, which it does every time females are part of the sports landscape.
  And there’s nothing chauvinistic about that statement. The facts back it up.
  No matter how good a pitcher she is, does anyone honestly believe Jennie Finch would be softball’s most recognizable face if that face weren’t pretty? Being a statuesque blond rather than the distaff equivalent of George Costanza doesn’t hurt her promotional appeal, either.
  Let me say, on behalf of red-blooded males everywhere, that I’m not voicing any complaints here. However, weak-willed as most guys are, it’d probably be better if the temptation to gawk didn’t keep popping up with so much frequency.
  The latest example being placed in front of men is an entity called the “Bikini Basketball League,” which as the name suggests, isn’t some new NBA developmental offshoot. It will, however, give an entirely new meaning to the phrase “player development.”
  The BBL is not scheduled to begin until the summer of 2013. The start date is important because it allows guys to breathe easier, knowing their heavy-breathing sports moments won’t end with the Lingerie Football League season does.
  What the BBL will be bumping scantily clad bodies with is the WNBA, which is what this column’s opening sentence was referencing. Will the BBL do what the WNBA hasn’t been able to yet accomplish in terms of establishing a larger male audience?
  Hormonally speaking, that’s a no-brainer. Why else, for example, would women’s beach volleyball receive so much airtime during Olympic telecasts?
  Ask most men about volleyball terminology and the replies would likely be something like this:
  • “Dig? That’s what you do on the beach with a sand pail and shovel, right?”
  • “Kill? Yeah, that’s what my wife will do to me if she catches me watching this.”
  • “Libero? Isn’t that the South American dictator our military is trying to overthrow? No, wait a minute – it’s that new dance, isn’t it?”
  The BBL has borrowed a page from the Lingerie Football League and assigned steamy nicknames to a few of its franchises. My personal favorite is the Hollywood Hotties, although our own Chicago Desire is pretty good, too.
  As to be expected, a representative of the Miami Spice who was quoted in a Miami New Times story downplayed the sexual aspect of the BBL — sort of.
  “This is a competitive basketball league, so we are definitely looking for girls that can really play,” the rep told the New Times. “It is also a bikini league in which the girls will be playing basketball in bikinis, so looking good in a bikini is a must.”
  Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett never had to deal with such a stipulation. Fact is, neither did Lisa Leslie, Cheryl Miller or Rebecca Lobo.
  I would imagine those three ladies, along with every other WNBA player — past or present — resent the idea of the BBL horning in on their still-to-be-fully-conquered territory, especially since the latter will take attention away from layups and foul shooting and put it on legs and fannies instead. Consider this — if bikinis were acceptable attire for sportswomen, why do competitive swimmers always choose to race in one-piece suits?
  If guys were smart, they would keep their minds on baseball when next summer arrives and realize that the BBL is nothing more than the latest shameless way to exploit women and appeal to men’s basest instincts. Males everywhere should completely ignore it.
  At least until the BBL playoffs begin.