But what about sexy? There is a difference. You know sexy, the art of "sexing" up something so it looks like it has sex, appeal that is.
Sports are sexy. Especially sports between the sexes. Take, for instance, July 27th's so-called "Battle of the Sexes" between the women's pro fastpitch-softball Chicago Bandits and the men's MLB-unaffiliated Class A Schaumburg Flyers, both of Chicago's northwest suburbs.
Think it was one-sided? Think it wasn't sexy? Then how come it drew a Flyers' stadium record 8,918 paid. How come it drew more media credential requests than any other event in Flyers' history except their opening night 10-plus years ago?
And how come the Bandits won, 4-2? This despite the Flyers bringing in three men's pro fast-pitch hurlers to "level the playing field." And how come the stands were full of Bandit orange-clad young girls, swaying the crowd clearly in the Bandits' favor?
And you don't suppose the men there were in attendance to watch the Flyers play softball, do you? No, they were there clearly hoping "the face of softball" herself, Jenny Finch, a member of the Bandits' roster, would be pitching. Unfortunately for them, the "poster-girl" and no-doubt "centerfold" of women's softball was on duty with the U.S. national team.
So how to "sex" this up to "sexy" status? The match-up in and of itself was "sexy," a women's team tackling a men's pro team, even if in the women's game on the women's rules and even with, as mentioned, special pitchers brought in for the men.
Why else was I sitting next to a local daily's education-beat reporter covering the game on my right and a talented yet albeit rookie-sports writer wannabe' just out of college on my left, scribing for a local web site newspaper. They were all over the pre-game field, getting quotes from players and fans alike about the prospects for the game, the prospects, that is, of boosting the fortunes of the Bandits, who unfortunately struggle to draw at their nearby home field.
Young girls told one of the reporters they wanted to be like Jenny Finch. I hope they meant the pitcher (wife and Mom), not the centerfold.
Flyers' "dancers" were there to entertain and supervise on-field promotional activities between innings, a popular minor-league staple that helps those teams deliver better value for the buck than many MLB teams do. Let's just say though that the dancers' uniforms did not leave a lot to the imagination and did enable them much, much flexibility when they led the crowd between innings in a rendition of The Village People's "YMCA." Once upon a time I had abs like that. In my dreams.
And then there was "Bat-Girl," (no, really), dressed up like the comic book/cartoon character. OK, not dressed up like her - actually dressed a lot less like her, key word, "less." She flashed around the Flyers' dugout (naturally) all game, picking up stray bats and balls and on deck-circle kinds of materials. I'm sure the adult-male fans and Flyer players didn't mind having her around.
None of this means the game was played to get Playboy to request press credentials. In fact, just the opposite. I really enjoyed it. The longest ball hit by any player was off the bat off Bandits' zippy little lead-off hitter, Stacey May, far over the head of surely surprised Flyers' left fielder Jeff Dunbar. It was followed by a solidly stroked single to right by catcher Rachel Folden, which knocked in the tying and ultimately game-winning runs. "Sexy" was the furthest thing from Folden's mind after the game, after she went 1-for-3 with a walk, 2 runs scored and 2 knocked in.
"That was fun," she asserted later as the teams lined up in a row around the infield to await an onslaught of fans to be allowed on the field for autographs from both squads. She appreciated the size of the crowd and the way the Flyers approached the game.
"I've never in my life seen a crowd this large," she said through a grin wide enough to make the blackout under her eyes actually crack a little. And as to the Flyers, "They didn't treat us like some novelty," she noted, adding that they were gracious and congratulatory in defeat and had put out their best effort, even if in an out-of-kilter game for them.
And as to her own team, "This is going to do big things for our organization," she said, noting it will likely help draw the bigger crowds they need, draw the increased media attention they need and, perhaps most importantly, draw the admiration and respect of the kids who finally saw them play and realized growing up to be like them is a goal to be forever mindful of.
I just wish she had 'Bat-Girl's" phone number or email address.
Howard Schlossberg is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago (www.colum.edu) and a sports correspondent at the Chicago suburban-based Daily Herald (www.dailyherald.com) in Arlington Heights, Ill., the only Chicago-area, major-metro daily not operating in Chapter 11. He also serves on the founding editorial board of and as a contributor to the first-of-its-kind, academically research-oriented Journal of Sports Media (www.olemiss.edu/departments/JSMindex.html).