Proving Mencken's point

May 08, 2010

H.L. Mencken wasn't writing about the launch of the Baltimore Charm when he observed that "nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public," but he may as well have been. The Baltimore Charm, the newest entrant into the fledgling Lingerie Football League (league slogan: "true fantasy football") held tryouts at 1st Mariner Arena on Sunday, with women running passing and tackling drills in sports bras and short-shorts — a more modest version of the uniforms they'll get to play in if they make the team.

True, many of the women who tried out are legitimate athletes, and the footage from games on the league's website shows that this isn't some cutesy game but one in which the players hit each other, and hard. And it is certainly difficult to blame the league for cheapening an already thoroughly cheapened culture, but all of the justifications that this league is anything more than a crass exploitation of women for the amusement of men fall a bit short.

Some of the women who tried out said there was little difference between the outfits they would wear and those sported by track athletes or beach volleyball players. In track, there can at least be an argument that the skimpy, skin-tight outfits have some effect on improving performance, whereas in football (particularly on artificial turf) an increase in exposed skin would only seem to be a disadvantage. And while I wouldn't go to my grave defending beach volleyball, at least the sport emerges from a culture in which people were wearing swimming suits, not one in which they typically cover themselves head to toe in pads.

The league's founder, Mitchell S. Mortaza, who was on hand for the tryout, noted that other women's professional sports teams have struggled to be profitable, a problem he says stems from the lack of some kind of hook to bring people in. He has filled that void with cleavage and garter belts. If this is the price of commercially viable women's sports, might we just say thanks but no thanks?

—Andrew A. Green

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