Last month this blog got over 15,000 hits. The strange thing is that the vast majority of the hits, coming via various internet sites, went straight for two articles I wrote in June. Those pieces were both about the same basic topic.
The topic was naked sports and this topic went up as post-event coverage of the World Naked Bike Ride and the preview of it called “Naked Biking, Hiking Buffs take Chicago”.
So I figure that there must be a revolutionary new grass roots interest in naked sports and other nude outdoor activity like freehiking. Either that or I am the beneficiary of a lot of late night internet porn searches.
As a guy I am not surprised every time I hear about something tangentially related to a sport that generates interest because it presents the chance for men to gawk at beautiful women who are scantily clad. I can't tell from Adobe’s Daily Page View Report what gender my readers are, but I know how men think and what grabs their attention online, both in sports and the sport of scouting attractive women.
There’s a whole section on The Bleacher Report about this called “Swagger”, featuring articles like “20 Big Ten Cheerleaders We Hope Will Pose in Playboy” and Hot Alum Editions. These widely read articles are written by the future George Plimptons of sports journalism, and other literary geniuses of our time. I don’t write such pieces.
But besides Swagger and the peephole video of ESPN’s Erin Andrews, which is supposedly still available on the internet, there may be a legitimate fascination with athletes who bare it all and the grace of the female body to real sports enthusiasts.
I remember in summer 1999 when the USA Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup on overtime penalties at the Rose Bowl in front of 90,000 fans. I have always considered that home win along with the advent of the internet as the two main catalysts in soccer’s meteoric rise in popularity stateside.
Yet the most memorable visual from that World Cup campaign wasn’t of Brandi Chastain’s left-footed strike or the ball hitting the back of China’s net. Rather it was the famous photos of her ripping off her jersey, flexing her muscles in a triumphant cheer.
Winning the World Cup was a big deal, and Chastain was a genuine star from that win. Within a few weeks the USA defender and Nike star appeared in a photo shoot (above) and a few ads that showcased her fantastic physique, wearing only cleats and a soccer ball in her hands.
It wasn’t a pretty California girl we were being asked to notice but a robust athlete at the top of her game. And I think America was pleasantly surprised that America’s first soccer World Cup could be won by such strong, beautiful women in sports bras.
Naked people on bikes. What you were searching for anyhow.
Around the same time Sports Illustrated changed up its longtime classic Swimsuit Issue to include something more than skinny girls in bikinis on a beach. SI started featuring women athletes and their formidable bodies, including not only the predictable appearance of Gabrielle Reece, but also photos of Serena Williams, golf star Annika Sorenstam, tennis Grand Slam legend Steffi Graf, and (later) softball pitcher Jennie Finch.
SI’s Swimsuit Issues became a better product. And the photos were all tasteful; some inspiring when you consider the fact that these women were being showcased as athletes not glamour objects.
So if late night erotic searches are behind what comes sauntering into My Sports Complex, then so be it. I won’t mind at all if internet users searching for fit bodies find tales about strong, athletic women instead.
Andy Frye writes about sports & life here on Chicago Now and for The Bleacher Report.