Dozens try out for Baltimore Charm, newest entry in the Lingerie Football League

May 02, 2010|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

The women trying out for the new Lingerie Football League team coming to Baltimore later this year wore training gear that bared midriffs and cleavage, and that seemed way too skimpy for a workout.

But the self-described "girly girls" — most in full makeup as well — trained like guys on the artificial turf field at 1st Mariner Arena where the tryouts were held.

They ran the 40-yard dash and tackled a training bag to the ground. They ran and caught a football in a running-back drill before ramming their bodies into two training bags — some so hard they were thrown to the ground.

When the women missed the ball or their performance wasn't up to par, punishment was a firm lecture and a lap around the field.

"This is not a cheerleading camp," Mitchell S. Mortaza, founder of the lingerie league, screamed at one point.

About 70 people tried out for the Baltimore Charm Sunday. It will be the newest in the 10-team Lingerie Football League — which gets both sneers and cheers for its racy nature.

The Charm will play its four-game season opener on the road Sept. 17 against the Philadelphia Passion. The home opener is scheduled for Oct. 1 against the Tampa Breeze.

The women who showed up at 1st Mariner ranged in age from 18 to 44. There was a pharmaceutical sales representative, an aesthetician, a personal trainer and a financial analyst. Hard-core athletes trained beside those who came out of curiosity.

All said they had heard criticism about the league; mainly that it exploits women. But they said they liked wearing sexy gear, even as they constantly tugged at their short shorts.

The participants pointed out that what they wear is not that different from the barely-there shorts that volleyball players and track stars wear.

"I want to be a girl, but I want to be able to hit too," said Samantha Allen, 28, a personal trainer who drove from New Jersey to try out for the team.

Rachel Kagay, a 28-year-old aesthetician from Bel Air, grew up a tomboy who would play football in the yard with her brothers. But she has also modeled and wouldn't leave the house without makeup.

"This gives me the chance to mix them both together and have a little fun," she said.

Mortaza said the lingerie is the marketing tool, but in the end the league is about the sport. He believes most professional female sports haven't done well because there is nothing to draw people in. He notes that his league is profitable and he is starting teams in Europe and Asia over the next two years.

"People may come in for the lingerie, but if they come back a second time, it's because of the football," Mortaza said.

The players are paid based on ticket sales. The winning team earns more than the losing team in a setup that Mortaza believes gives them incentive to play harder.

Scott Donahoo, the businessman best known for his quirky auto dealership commercials, called the league a "marketing dream." He is thinking of buying a stake in the Charm.

Eighteen women from Sunday's tryouts are going on to camp. By the end of the summer, about 20 will be chosen for the team, although only 14 will get to play.

Athletic prowess aside, league officials aren't shy about the fact that looks count in this game.

"To play in this league, you have to be beautiful," said Aaron Weisbuch, Baltimore market director.

Madrienne Shamley, a 26-year-old analyst for a pension fund, is perfectly OK with that. She has played sports all her life and doesn't mind showing off the body she got while doing it.

"I was excited about that part," Shamley said. "I wanted to play football in a cute outfit."

At first, Shamley's boyfriend, Brian Allen, wasn't too excited about her wearing a teeny uniform in front of thousands of spectators. He came around.

"It's just how we used to train," the former college player said as he watched the tryouts. "They are playing real football."

Andrea.walker@baltsun.com

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