Some folks believe — mistakenly — that football is inextricably linked with autumnal chill or frozen tundra. Not so! Football is a year-round occupation now. For NFL fans, free agency and the impending draft take pride of place. And for those who'd rather watch live action, the Legends (formerly Lingerie) Football League and the Arena Football League have offerings worth checking out.
Ladies first, as the aphorism goes. At first glance, the Legends Football League struck some observers, like me, as willfully exploitative. That reputation might stick. However, if one looks at this brand of women’s football from a different angle, the precise analogue for it may not be the NFL, but something like roller derby — a sport that defied its roots long ago and has become a vehicle for genuine female empowerment.
What I’m saying is, don’t let the pretty faces and the taut bodies fool you into thinking there's anything soft about this version of the game. With a name change and an alteration of the uniforms, the LFL is moving toward legitimacy, in a WWE diva sort of way. The women will still be wearing short shorts and exposing their midriffs, but garters — which haven’t been used in the NFL in some time — are now gone. This makes it easier, in theory, for sports fans to know these women for the athletes they are.
And just like athletes in any other sport, there are legitimate rivalries — though, admittedly, they fly below the SportsCenter radar. And smack talk galore.
“Everyone thinks we are looking forward to the Atlanta game this year because everyone is talking a big game about them. [They] are the least of my worries right now,” said Jacksonville Breeze linebacker Adrian Purnell on LFL360.com, an indispensable Legends Football League resource.
It's hard to say, given the paucity and opacity of information about the league, how good the Atlanta team coming to town March 30 might be. Heck, the local franchise is just getting settled here itself since moving up from Tampa, so it’s hard to say how good the Breeze is. What's clear about LFL is that it's trying to legitimize the operation. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the League is the business model, which counts on players’ interest in competing and expanding not just nationally, but internationally, even as far away as Australia and China.
There’s also an expansion of the peripherals around the LFL. Time was when most of the fantasizing was about the athletes on the field. No more! The LFL now has its own fantasy football league, powered by Fantazzle Fantasy Games.
Not all legends can play in the Legends Football League, obviously. Consider the case of Tim Tebow, whose decline from playoff quarterback in Denver to pending roster castoff in New York has not gone unnoticed by a nearby Arena Football League franchise. Brett Bouchy, Orlando Predators owner and brother to Jacksonville Sharks owner Jeff Bouchy, has made Tebow an offer that isn’t as ridiculous as it might seem.
“I think he would definitely improve as a quarterback in our league," Bouchy told the Orlando Sentinel recently. "Kurt Warner told me once that when he got back to the NFL after playing in the Arena League, the game was like slow motion. Everything in the Arena League is just so much faster and quicker and predicated on accuracy. Whenever Tim is willing, we have a contract waiting for him to sign.”
Tebow’s NFL career has been a series of what-ifs. In Denver, ex-backup Brady Quinn was disgruntled when the former Gators QB leapfrogged him on the depth chart. In New York, Tebow was signed to sell jerseys before the season, but then he rarely played. At this point, Tebow could use a showcase almost as much as the Arena League could use a drawing card. It’s unlikely that Tebow will sign Bouchy's deal — but stranger things have happened.