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Wednesday, December 26, 2001
Updated: December 22, 11:26 AM ET
The Year in Sex & Sports

By Jeff Merron
ESPN.com

It's all about desire ... and you've got to play with passion. It's the Year in Sex & Sports.

From male and female athletes posing nude, to the media's not-so-subtle fascination with Anna Kournikova, to debates about exploitation and self-expression, sex plays a complicated, often controversial role in sports and sports coverage.

Culled from my SurfJones weblog and the Surfin' Insider columns I've written in the last year, here's a look at notable stories on sex and sports in the media in 2001.

January

Jill Arrington
CBS' Jill Arrington was the winner of Playboy's "Sexiest Sportscaster" poll.
Wasn't John Madden nominated?
Playboy launches a poll to pick "America's Sexiest Sportscaster." Many of the women "nominated" for the poll, which causes a storm of self-evaluation on the part of the sports journalism establishment, try to dodge "blame" on the grounds that they haven't chosen to be a part of it. However, several -- including Summer Sanders, Bonnie Bernstein and Melissa Stark -- make sure, either personally or through their agents, that Playboy has their most flattering pictures posted.

CBS' Jill Arrington wins the poll with 26 percent of the vote. Stark finishes a close second with 23 percent.

Why are they the stars of women's tennis? Because they control the net
Even if you ignore Anna Kournikova, no easy feat for anyone who spends any amount of time surfing the net, women tennis stars dominate the medium, with Venus Williams, Martina Hingis, Serena Williams, Jelena Dokic and Mary Pierce all far more searched for than the most popular men's star, Australian Open winner Andre Agassi.

Peepin' Times
The New York Times reports that players in the visiting locker room at Veteran's Stadium are drilling holes in a door to get a good view of the adjacent locker room, where the cheerleaders dress -- and, of course, undress.

February

Elsa Benitez
Elsa Benitez, the wife of Rony Seikaly, graced the cover of SI's Swimsuit Issue.
SI publishes its annual Cancel-My-Subscription Swimsuit Issue
With Elsa Benitez, wife of former NBA center Rony Seikaly, on the cover, librarians around the nation, apparently not well-informed about the educational aspects of the most popular issue of Sports Illustrated, send out a form letter cancelling their subscriptions.

The XFL is born
The football didn't turn enough fans on, though, at first, the well-built and scantily-clad cheerleaders did.

Anna's most powerful serve
A computer virus, disguised as a photo of Anna Kournikova, overwhelms e-mail servers worldwide.

Investigative journalism at its best reveals Pat Burrell's sexcapades
According to a Penthouse Q&A, the Phillies outfielder prefers to see women nude, rather than clothed; was nervous and uncertain the night he lost his virginity; and believes he's doing just fine as both a baseball player and a lover. And, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of his responses "was not fit for a family newspaper." Well, we at Page 2 are just shocked!

March

"F--- for the Future"
Las Vegas cheerleaders
More fans were watching the cheerleaders than the players in the XFL.
To encourage the youth of Europe to have more sex, former tennis star Bjorn Borg places a full-page ad in Sweden's biggest business daily with that provocative slogan at the bottom. "There aren't enough babies being born," reads the ad. "If nothing drastic happens soon there won't be anyone who can work and put up for our pensions."

Back in the Penthouse
Apparently, Penthouse is trying to corner the market on the sex lives of Pennsylvania's major-league players. One issue after Burrell confessed "all," the May issue features Pirates pitcher Kris Benson and his wife, talking candidly about their special path to connubial bliss. "I though it would be something new, instead of just talking about my curveball or something like that," explains Benson.

Bum rap
John Hopoate receives a 12-week suspension from Australia's National Rugby League for a "disgraceful act." According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, one offended opponent reveals, "I felt fingers. He was pushing up my arse." In a lame attempt to defend himself, Hopoate says he was just trying to administer effective "wedgies" -- and besides, "what happens on the field should stay on the field."

April

The wandering fingers of John Hopoate save lives
The rugby star suspended for sticking his finger where it didn't belong becomes the poster boy -- literally -- for the Cancer Society of New Zealand. The Society begins using a photo of him "in action" as part of a public-service campaign encouraging men to get prostate exams.

Advanced scouting
The lacrosse team at the St. Paul's School for Boys in Brooklandville, Md., ranked No. 1 in the nation, has its season cancelled after one player entertains the whole team with a tape of himself having sex with a girlfriend. Some team members, who had expected to be reviewing a tape of the previous week's game, discover their college scholarships are in jeopardy.

What the PGA learned from the XFL
A company called Pin-Up Golf wants to "entertain crowds (with cheerleaders) during slower periods in tournament play, thereby pumping up the crowds for the players, especially the lesser-known pros." Company president and cheerleader Jennifer Pennington claims this has worked already at a few tourneys. Conspiracy theorists wonder if this is a last-ditch effort to distract Tiger Woods and bring him back to the pack.

Ichiro Suzuki
The Japanese press wanted to see even more of Ichiro Suzuki.
Wanted: Ichiro in the nude. Reward: $1 million
Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki stops dressing near his locker after a Japanese publication offers $1 million for a photo of him naked.

Arena Football P.A. announcer makes ultimate sacrifice for porn site
Ted Fitzgeorge, the public address announcer for the Miami Firecats, plugs www.sinfulfantasies.com -- which is not on his list of advertisers -- during a game. Fitzgeorge says he was doing a friend a favor, but didn't have a clue that what he was plugging was a porn site.

May

Editor tells MLB boyfriend: "Get out!"
Brendan Lemon, the editor-in-chief of Out magazine, drops this bombshell in his "Editor's Letter" in the May issue: "For the past year and a half, I have been having an affair with a pro baseball player from a major-league East Coast franchise ... I want the ballplayer to come out." Lemon says it would be good for both him and his boyfriend. "I'm pretty confident there'd be more support from the team than he imagines."

No major-league player comes forward to accept Lemon's generous self-improvement offer. Once again, Page 2 is shocked.

Spring break for lesbians
The UK's Observer surveys the scene at the Dinah Shore Classic, held in March in Palm Springs, Ca., and reports it has become the equivalent of spring break for lesbians. The big party started 11 years ago, when two L.A. bar owners saw an opportunity. Now, many of the lesbians in town for the weekend aren't even aware there's a tourney going on. "It's one long party, with nudity, girl-on-girl action and go-go dancers simulating sex on stage," writes the Observer's Veronica Lee.

Hot moves put on ice
In response to complaints from viewers and fans, the International Skating Union decides to penalize pairs skaters and ice dancers for certain moves, such as upside-down splits and backward spread eagles. From now on, teams will lose 0.1 for each movement considered by judges to be "undignified." According to an ISU statement, the poses "are being performed mainly by the ladies."

June

Gold Club
The Gold Club trial offered a few months' worth of sordid sexual tales involving athletes.
The Gold Club Trial
During the next few months, a bunch of famous athletes, including Patrick Ewing and Andruw Jones, will testify about their strip-club sexcapades during a racketeering trial centered around Atlanta's infamous gentlemen's club. So much sex intermingled with criminal activity is reported that, in fairness to other sex-and-sports events in 2001, that we couldn't possibly recap it all here.

Marv's back? Yesssss!
Who'da thunk it? Less than four years after Marv Albert was fired by NBC for committing forcible sodomy and assault in an Arlington, Va., hotel room, pro basketball's No. 1 announcer was back on the network for the NBA Finals.

First "undignified" moves on ice ... and now this?
The Vegas rumor mill reports that former skating champ and leg-banger Tonya Harding had been thinking about performing in "a topless Ice Capades, of sorts," scheduled for the same time as the 2002 Winter Olympics. But, sadly, by the time the report is circulated, ice skating's bad girl has already changed her mind.

It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that thong
After Vicky Botwright is prohibited from wearing only a thong and sports bra while playing for the British Open Squash title -- she covers up and loses in the second round -- the angry squash artist speaks out for sartorial freedom: "We should be able to wear skimpy clothing if we want to, as some of the more conventional outfits we wear can be quite restrictive."

July

Barbara Schett
Barbara Schett couldn't fill the void at Wimbledon for Annamaniacs.
Filling the Anna void
Anna K. isn't playing Wimbledon, due to a foot injury, so the Daily Mirror figures there's a pin-up void to be filled. The newspaper annoints Barbara Schett the tourney's 2001 glamour girl, but no one is fooled. "She's no Kournikova," says one typical fan. "It's a media thing ... they always have to have a blondie. She's not even that good, and I really can't see what all the fuss is about."

Viagra goes to the dogs
"The greatest thing since sliced bread." That's one dog trainer's take on Viagra, the male sex drug that, rumors say, is being given to greyhounds to enhance their racing performances. Many are skeptical of Viagra's ability to improve a dog's speed, but the Irish greyhound racing board bans the substance anyway.

Tale of the tape: Soccer Barbie vs. SoccerGirl Gabi
The verdict from SI for Women: Barbie loses the battle of the plastic titans. Soccer Barbie's 33-18-28 measurements might be great for endorsements, but they just can't hold up in the heat of competition. Gabi's got more muscular legs, better gear, better moves ... and sports underwear.

August

Peeping can be hazardous to your financial health
Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, two former Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders, file a lawsuit against 23 NFL teams that visited Veterans Stadium between 1986 and 2001, seeking more than $75,000 in damages, following up on the New York Times report that they were spied on through a peephole into the cheerleaders' locker room.

September

Anna Kournikova
Anna Kournikova spent more time pitching products than playing tennis matches in 2001.
Just a coach's decision
Sports Illustrated "outs" a rumored relationship between Detroit Shock coach Nancy Lieberman and Anna DeForge, her starting point guard during the 2000 season. Both deny the relationship, but Shock players say they saw the two together all the time. Why does it matter? Well, Shock players say DeForge wasn't good enough to start, and that Lieberman played favorites with the guard. Lieberman is adamant in her denial of the relationship, and defends her decision to start DeForge. She adds that the players who told upper management about the relationship "are no longer with the franchise, because they didn't produce. Coaches and players can be close friends."

October

Skin Games
Poland's women's basketball league asks its hoopsters to wear revealing shorts in order to increase ratings.

It's all in the timing
Men's Health provides a guide for when to do what, body-clock wise. Stretching? Try once in mid-morning, twice in the afternoon. Firing a baseball manager? Do it in the afternoon -- the ex-skipper is more likely to have a heart attack if he's kicked upstairs in the morning. Playing golf or pool? Late afternoon is best for eye-hand coordination. Looking for love? Try 11:55 a.m.

November

Can "pin-up cops" calm World Cup hooligans?
South Korea has a plan for controlling the half-million fans expected to visit for the 2002 World Cup -- put beautiful policewomen in charge. It's worked before, during demonstrations in Seoul. "Many people in the world find South Korean women very attractive," says the deputy director of World Cup security. "Having these policewomen on the front line has had quite an effect."

Doesn't figure to do much for team chemistry
Sevilla's Francisco Gallardo congratulates a teammate who scored a goal by bending down and nibbling on his penis. He could be fined or suspended by the Spanish soccer federation for violating standards of "sporting dignity and decorum."

December

Why the sun now sets on the British Empire
Following the great success of the Australian Matildas soccer team, which raised oodles of cash (and gained lots of publicity) with a nude calendar in 2000, plenty of athletes took it all off for calendars in 2001. Among those you can post in your cubicle in 2002 -- one of the Kent County, England Cricket Club. Says one poser: "I was amazed at just how enthusiastic some of (the lads) were to prance about the place with no clothes on."

You can also keep track of the days while gazing at the Bristol Rovers Ladies Football Club, also from England. "People tend to have a stereotypical view of women's football, of big butch women kicking a ball around, and we wanted to prove we are quite a feminine team," says the team captain.

Who's afraid of the big, bad Super Bowl? Not NBC
NBC wants to steal away Fox's viewers during halftime of this year's Super Bowl, and it just might succeed with this combination -- six Playboy Playmates competing in the hit reality TV show, "Fear Factor." NBC plans to interrupt another program right when halftime begins, show the Playmate "Fear Factor" until the end of halftime, and then resume the Playmate parade at the end of the game. "The Super Bowl is a huge event and when a network has it, the other networks tend to just lie down and roll over," says Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment. "I hate lying down. I figured, let's have some fun."

Jeff Merron writes the Surfin' Insider column for ESPN.com.