By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
In seconds, beauty morphs into brutality.
The quarterback takes the ball and drops back three steps, right elbow cocked, eyes darting across the field. Anonka Dixon spots her favorite receiver, Tina Caccavale, but she's double-covered. The quarterback searches for another receiver but instead sees a tall defensive end barreling down hard.
It's fourth down — 30 seconds until halftime, with the Miami Caliente down seven points — and the Chicago Bliss defense has applied relentless pressure to the quarterback. This will be Miami's last chance to score before halftime. As the seconds tick away, the sparse crowd speckled about the arena at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is tense.
The quarterback tucks the ball to her ribs and squares her shoulders with the oncoming defender. A quick juke to the left sends the Chicago player flying by, a blur of orange jersey and blond hair. Dixon looks back down the field. A muscular 33-year-old born and raised in Miami, she always dreamed of playing full-contact football in front of a television audience.
And she's doing it at last. In a skintight teal bikini made of satin and lace. With a bright number 12 on her butt and nothing at all on her toned legs and midriff.
Anonka Dixon is the best player in the league. With lightning speed; the ability to plant either foot, pivot, and reverse field in a blink; and a right arm that can launch a perfect spiral 60 yards, she's the female version of Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, and the good parts of Michael Vick all rolled into one.
Dixon's receivers are crossing the field now, waving their hands, calling her name. She doesn't see the linebacker right behind her, but she somehow feels the pressure, spins backward to the right, and narrowly avoids the sack. She immediately cuts left again to slip another defender.
She tucks the ball once more and charges past the line of scrimmage. Her receivers become blockers. She directs them with her left hand as she sprints through traffic, her legs turning faster than the high-definition cameras around the arena can pick up clearly. She speeds across the field, up the right sideline.
Bliss safety Deborah Poles is tracking Dixon at an angle, sprinting toward her. The two forces finally collide at the Chicago 13. They connect first at the shoulders, but in a split second, both bodies are parallel to the ground, feet in the air, their fate now up to gravity.
The sound of the collision — a clap of plastic pads and helmets and the slap of human flesh — reverberates around the arena. There is an echo of "oooohhh."
"Bring it, bitch!" a Chicago player yells in the aftermath of the hit. "All night! All fucking night!"
Both players are slow to get up. Dixon lifts herself to one knee and flips the ball softly to the referee. The hit leaves her a bit stunned, her helmet and shoulder pads slightly ajar. She senses something is wrong and grabs the top of her right arm. She hasn't the time to worry about what will later be diagnosed as an "acromioclavicular joint separation." She just got a first down.
It was win or go home. The game was a playoff matchup for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the inaugural Lingerie Football League championship game. What began as a one-off pay-per-view Super Bowl halftime alternative in 2004 was now an entire league in which ten satin-clad teams with names like Los Angeles Temptation, San Diego Seduction, and Dallas Desire each played a four-game schedule stretched over four months.
This year's Lingerie Bowl, billed as "The Ultimate Catfight" and scheduled to air during halftime of Super Bowl XLIV, was available for $9.95 on the league's website.
The two conference playoff games and the league championship were played a few days before Peyton Manning battled Drew Brees in Miami Gardens. Lingerie football can be nearly as brutal as the fully clothed men's game. These women deal with broken bones, torn ligaments, concussions, and a lot of nasty burns from playing in underwear on the indoor turf. Miami alone lost three players to torn ACLs this season. Add drunken fans, cheesy businessmen at the top of the league, and little money, and the life of a lingerie football player is hardly beautiful.
The women themselves are proportioned like quarterbacks and wide receivers but in a female form. They are ripped physical specimens, Amazon-like warriors geared for battle.
Of course, the concept is as subtle as a 350-pound lineman. "You have to consider the demographic of Super Bowl Sunday," says league founder and commissioner Mitch Mortaza. "It's primarily men. And what are two great things that all men universally love? Beautiful women and football."
The truth is, the public en masse isn't likely to feel comfortable watching or buying anything with Lingerie in the name anytime soon. And there's something disturbing about seeing exquisitely toned young women with their most feminine physical attributes highlighted — the standard-issue uniform includes a lace garter, and the helmets have clear facemasks so the audience can see the women's features — participating in what is otherwise exclusively male behavior. But most of the players, while acknowledging the concept is exploitative — "a man's sick dream," one player called it — insist the game is a display of female empowerment. Sort of like burlesque. Or the way roller derby began as an excuse for men to watch women tussle in flapping skirts but now, for many, symbolizes a weird brand of feminism.