The Orlando Fantasy of the Lingerie Football League kicked off their inaugural season on Friday, Sept. 24 at the UCF Arena. Not familiar? It’s just the local franchise of the 10-team league starring teams of scantily clad women playing full-contact football.
We were unsure of what to wear to the game; patrons of most sporting events wear a facsimile of the uniforms or jerseys that players wear, but our mimicking of these athletes probably would have been less well-accepted than usual. This suspicion was supported by the fact that the merchandise stand sold shirts and jerseys, but not team-themed lingerie of any sort for us to don.
The players’ uniforms are actually more akin to sports bras with a sweetheart necklines and spandex boy shorts than traditional lingerie (along with their decidedly non-La Perla hockey helmets and shoulder pads). From the moment the players emerged onto the field, the crowd seemed to accept their dress as a given and simply watch the sport for what it was—a football game. The audience may have had a slightly higher male-to-female ratio than most football games, but not drastically so, and the ones there did not seem to be cat-calling or otherwise drawing excessive attention to the first “L” in LFL. For the players’ parts, their mannerisms and attitudes were not noticeably different from male, fully clothed football players. Beyond some of them looking like models and one touchdown celebration that involved a little booty-shaking, they conducted themselves like any professional athlete: they were aggressively excited after making good plays, business-oriented in trotting on and off the field, and ultimately focused on the game.
Even the presentation of the game was closer to that of an Arena Football League game than a sideshow act featuring practically- naked women. Despite overly sexualized advertising, nigh-on-erotic team names (including the San Diego Seduction and Dallas Desire) and a Tampa Breeze logo that includes the silhouette of an obviously naked woman, the LFL drew no special attention to the athletes or their attire during the game. Even their version of football rules closely mirrored the AFL’s, though with 7 players on the field per team (compared to the AFL’s 8) and field goals removed in favor of forcing teams to play for their yardage on 4th downs.
The competitiveness of the game itself proved to be the games major shortcoming. While the players were certainly skilled—making impressive runs and connecting on hard hits—there remained an air of lacking fundamentals that refused to let us forget that these women for the most part did not grow up playing the sport, owing primarily to snaps which routinely sailed over the quarterback’s head or were simply handled poorly. The Orlando Fantasy in particular looked a bit rough and often lost on the field, befitting a new expansion team. They were utterly outmatched by a Tampa Breeze squad which disrupted plays in the backfield on defense and marched up and down the field on offense to the tune of a 48-6 final score. Eventual game MVP Bryn Renda and Emanda Doscher of Tampa were particularly dominant, never far from the action.
Throughout the contest, we interpreted the crowd’s lack of continued enthusiasm to not caring about the athletic competition. But when Orlando scored to make it 28-6 and UCF Arena exploded into applause and cheering, we realized that the relatively quiet crowd was not symptomatic of apathy towards the game, but that the Orlando fans there had merely lacked anything to cheer about up to that point. Details sports fans would expect were all accounted for; programs were sold, a game MVP was named and a post-game autograph session was conducted with the team. Seeing them sitting together at a long table, looking disappointed after a tough loss, really brought home the seriousness with which they take their sport, which reportedly pays its champions six-figure paychecks. These ladies may not look like your average football players, but the post-game bruises do not lie.