First published in 2010 this article covered the US sports league that had more column inches written about the actual players than the action itself…The league has now been rebranded as the Legends Football League but is still going strong. In fact it has expanded globally with leagues in Canada and Australia, and a Europa League due to start in 2015 featuring teams from Dublin, Manchester and Barcelona.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the US. The biggest day of celebration in North America. Christmas is a time for presents and for outlandish house decorating, Halloween is the new Easter but for sheer gluttony nothing can beat Thanksgiving. It is all about eating as much as you can, crashing out on the sofa and watching 10 hours of American Football.
It is hard for us Brits to imagine a similar situation. Our biggest day of celebration is still Christmas Day. Sure, we pig out just like the Americans, we crash on the sofa in a slumber but when we turn on the TV we have repeats of lame comedy shows, a James Bond film and the Queens speech. The thought of our overpaid, overhyped footballers turning out on Christmas Day is simply unimaginable. For one thing we do not have a transport infrastructure that actually works on Christmas Day meaning travel to and from games would be nigh on impossible if you did not have a car. But it was not always the way. Games were played in the English leagues on Christmas Day right up until 1959.
But I digress. As it was Thanksgiving and Andy Mack was over in Copenhagen from the US we decided to take him to the pub and watch a game. With the time difference it handily meant that the first game of the day, Detroit Lions v New England Patriots kicked off at 6.35pm. Andy is big on his stats and could give OptaJoe a run for his money on anything to do with NFL. For instance he told me about the effect travel has on teams, especially those who fly westwards across the country. You tend to forget that Miami to Seattle is over 2,700 miles and nearly 6 hours in a plane, and therefore that jetlag can have an effect. There is also the sunshine effect, or lack of it to be more precise. Teams like the San Diego Chargers do not really fancy an away trip to Green Bay in the middle of winter where it can be minus 20 at kick off time.
The game itself, if you ignore the constant stoppages is very interesting to watch. I still believe that the quarterback actually has no idea what he is going to do when the ball is passed back to him, but apparently there is a huge “play book” that he has to know and each individual play is transmitted via a radio link to him before every move. What I noticed was how unfit some of the players looked. Now I know you need to be big in this game as some of the hits the players take are huge but there is muscular big, and there is “I’ve just eaten a whole bucket of KFC for breakfast” big. I realise that some of the “Athletes” only actually play a few minutes in any one game, but even so I question the fitness regimes of some the teams.
With a few Danish Christmas beers sunk we started chatting about the ridiculous names some of the franchises have. The last time I checked there were no tigers freely roaming around Ohio so why do we have the Cincinnati Bengals? And did the Norse warriors ever make it as far as the Midwest? Well perhaps as Minnesota has its Vikings. Ahoy me hearties you may say in Tampa in Florida, but were there really any Buccaneers that far south? But Andy then topped the lot.
“And of course there is the Orlando Fantasy…”
What? There is no NFL team in Orlando – even I knew that…
“They play in the same league as the Baltimore Charms, the Tampa Breeze, the Philadelphia passion and the Miami Caliente”
We were lost. I had heard of Indoor American football – in fact a few years ago I had seen the Orlando Predators beat the Tampa Bay Storm in a close 76-69 game, but never such feminine names.
“You mean you have never seen a LFL game? And I thought you knew about sport!”
This taunting was too much. I disappeared into the toilets, fired up Uncle Google and searched. BANG. It hit me right in the face. LFL = LINGERIE FOOTBALL LEAGUE. Oh my God. The Americans had taken their favourite past times of Football and women half-naked and combined them into one. And there was a proper league to boot. Ten teams (the five above plus the San Diego Seduction, the Dallas Desire, the Chicago Bliss, the Los Angeles Temptation and the Seattle Mist) who played in two conferences with the winners going onto the Lingerie Bowl final, to be held this season in Las Vegas.
THE LINGERIE FOOTBALL LEAGUE HAS BECOME THE ULTIMATE FAN-DRIVEN LIVE SPORTS PHENOMENON – BLENDING ACTION, IMPACT AND BEAUTY.
The concept originated from the Super Bowl halftime alternative television special called the Lingerie Bowl which draws millions of viewers as a pay-per-view event broadcast annually directly opposite the Super Bowl halftime show. The television show has become a staple of Super Bowl Sunday festivities for millions worldwide being broadcast in over 85 countries and the idea of a league was dreamt up by Mitchell S. “Mitch” Mortaza (it had to be Mitch).
Now in its second season the game is drawing more and more fans (hmm that is a bit surprisingly when you think about it). The games are predominately played indoors in venues like the 12,000 seater San Diego Sports Arena and the 10,000 seater UCF Arena in Orlando although the Dallas Desire actually play at the 92,000 seater Cotton Bowl. However, it is impossible to find out exact crowd figures as the league does not release them, only saying that crowds were up 30% on projections, and that a number of games during the season had been played in front of capacity crowds.
But the league is not without its controversial element, as you can imagine. Just this week the mayor of Oklahoma City has said that he does not want his city to feature a team in the league next season after Mitch had announced the city would be given a franchise. And then there is the issue of the actual players.
The women get a paycheck based on attendance and their team’s record, although players admit they play more for the exposure and thrill of it than for the cash. Tampa Breeze players have been practicing at least twice a week for several months and local company Planet Beach gives them free, unlimited tanning. They have to agree to central contracts that stipulate amongst other things “Unavoidable nudity is part of the game” and that the TV cameras will not avoid such incidents.
So is there a future for the game, or will it just be seen as a gimmick? Three games into the new season and with a TV deal with MTV in the bag the signs are good, but then again the same was said about the World League of American Football that featured the London Monarchs and the Scottish Claymores that ceased operations back in 2007. With the current trend of playing American games here in the UK such as NFL at Wembley Stadium and NBA at the o2 Arena, how long before we see this version of game in an arena near us soon?