By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
|Photo by Kathleen Clark|
Thursday’s sports section proclaimed, "Success of the ’99 Women’s World Cup Is . . . LOOKING GOOD." Just in case we didn’t get the none-too-subtle turn of cliché, the story was subtitled "No matter how well U.S. team does, some will always look to sex appeal as the reason for the sudden groundswell of popularity."
Apparently, "some" would be the L.A. Times. Sportswriter Mike Penner went on to devote eight paragraphs not to the skills and unmatched prowess of the now-champs, but to detailing Brandi Chastain’s nude-with-soccer-ball pose in the men’s magazine Gearwith dick-in-hand detail ("No shorts. No jersey. No shinguards . . ."). He also imparted David Letterman’s nickname for the team — "Babe City" — and told us that the moniker has stuck — now we know who to blame.
Penner was baffled over why the heck men and boys would be passionate about women’s soccer if not for the titillation. OffBeat had presumed that guys liked watching these women compete because they’re great athleteswho play damn good soccer. No doubt many of these men first tuned in out of curiosity (can these girls really play?), only to get hooked on watching tight, professional games. And national pride, breaking through the gender barrier, surely had some of the male fans rooting for an American victory in the world’s favorite sport, even if the championship was Girls Only. Surely Penner will get it now, OffBeat thought, when our team claimed the trophy two days later.
Instead, the L.A. Timesran not one, but two, pictures of Chastain in a sports bra after she spontaneously removed her jersey upon scoring the winning goal. Bill Plaschke wrote the cover story, going into a play-by-play of Chastain’s supposedly provocative gesture. Never mind that her performance during the game was the real story. Never mind that the ripping-off-your-shirt-and-doing-the-victory-lap has been a staple of soccer ever since it’s been played, and that Chastain in her unrevealing black top was about as provocative as a barefoot Zola Budd. Not that you would know that from reading Plaschke’s panting text ("Chastain stripped down to her shorts and sports bra . . ."), thick with nudge-nudge, wink-wink innuendo and a veritable fest of clichés ("Once again, they gave us the shirts off their backs").
Not to be outdone, Mike Penner’s story in the sports section ran with the headline "Bare Facts Make These Two Heroes" and was yet another story about . . . stripping. That Briana Scurry is a phenomenal goalie and the engineer of the American victory seemed not nearly as newsworthy as the fact that she is said to have done a lap in the buff around Athens, Georgia, on a wager after the team garnered the gold medal in the ’96 Olympic Games.
Why all the leering? Beyond the obvious sexism, the Times, in the name of legitimizing women’s sports, displayed an unhealthy focus on women’s soccer as a potential commercial gold mine. Sex sells, ergo the Times’ take. This obsession with cashing in has sent fans streaming away from the major leagues to college basketball, extreme sports, anything but another report on big salaries and bigger owner profits. But no matter, the Timesis leading the charge. It almost makes you hope that women’s soccer remains in the shadows so we can talk about smooth passes and bull’s-eye goals instead of a great pair of legs.—Millay Hyatt
Standing Room Only
Seems that, even after months of delay, and a $10 million "redevelopment to rejuvenate, beautify and expand" the Ice Age landmark, there won’t be any park benches in Hancock Park until, at the earliest, mid-October. The trouble is, the Philadelphia foundry making the 18 park benches, along with new, ornate trash cans, is behind schedule. Way behind, considering that L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky led a band of public officials in a ribbon-cutting ceremony this Wednesday, July 14, and the soonest shipping date from the manufacturer is October 8. The park has been closed since September of last year, and as the deadline to re-inaugurate came and went, park planners realized they’d be opening sans the usual posterior accommodations.
"The architects and the art museum understandably wanted to stick with the design, but we have sort of said to ourselves, ‘Oh my God, why didn’t we get them closer to home?’" says a somewhat dismayed Jerry Smith, operations-and-finance manager of the Page Museum at Hancock Park.
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