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Opinion

Room for glamour in sports? Ask athletes

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/8/2010 (3102 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's not Anna Rawson's fault she's gorgeous.

Her game? Not so much, especially when the 29-year-old was leaking profusely to close her first round at the CN Canadian Women's Open on a sun-baked Thursday afternoon at St. Charles, finishing double-bogey, bogey, par for a 1-over 73. Not pretty.

"I'm terrible the last five holes of my round. I'm ready to get in," the amiable Aussie said. "If golf was 14 holes, I'd be good."

But wait. Is it wrong to focus on a female's esthetics, as opposed to her athletics?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/8/2010 (3102 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

LPGA golfers Anna Rawson (above), Lee Young Lee , Morgan Pressel,  and Paula Creamer understand star power is a part of the world of women's sports.

JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

LPGA golfers Anna Rawson (above), Lee Young Lee , Morgan Pressel, and Paula Creamer understand star power is a part of the world of women's sports.

It's not Anna Rawson's fault she's gorgeous.

Her game? Not so much, especially when the 29-year-old was leaking profusely to close her first round at the CN Canadian Women's Open on a sun-baked Thursday afternoon at St. Charles, finishing double-bogey, bogey, par for a 1-over 73. Not pretty.

Lee Young Lee

JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Lee Young Lee

"I'm terrible the last five holes of my round. I'm ready to get in," the amiable Aussie said. "If golf was 14 holes, I'd be good."

But wait. Is it wrong to focus on a female's esthetics, as opposed to her athletics?

Because I'm just spitballin' here, but we're guessing that was never an issue with Craig Stadler. Or Jim Furyk. Or Kenny Perry. Or John Daly. Or... well, you get the point.

Rawson, however, was modelling well before she was ever close to the LPGA Tour, and she's far more familiar with runways than fairways. She has won just over $9,000 this year, which is a pittance.

But Rawson is now a Go Daddy Girl, and in 2008 was named Maxim's Sexiest New Athlete. She is tall, slender and beautiful.

And, you know, 1-over ain't all that bad on a blustery day at St. Charles. At last year's Canadian Open, in fact, Rawson fired a 64.

What's our point? Simple: It's often considered rather gauche to discuss sex appeal in female sports, yet everybody does it. Constantly. And in a world where sex sells — whether it's nude calenders, SI swimsuit issues or simply short skirts — to separate "sex" from "appeal" is laughable, if not hypocritical.

Morgan Pressel

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Morgan Pressel

Yet on the field of play, it seems to be the bikini-clad elephant in the living room.

Probably because it's a blatant double standard. Who cares what male athletes look like, right? They can have pot-bellies. They can be bald. They can be squat... (Wait a minute, I think I saw that guy in the mirror the other day. But I digress.)

And if David Beckham wants to model Armani underwear, whatever.

Conversely, there's no Anna Kournikova in Major League Baseball and there's no Danica Patrick in the NFL; long on heavily marketed looks and short on championships.

And so what? Kournikova was a meal ticket for tennis, whether she won or not. Patrick has given auto racing a billion dollars in free publicity, even though it made her rich and famous in the process. Her male competitors should change her tires at every pit stop, without complaint.

Paula Creamer

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Paula Creamer

In sports, however, it's considered poor form to admire form (literally speaking) over substance, and that all-too-human attraction should be removed from the equation. Or at least ignored.

Not so for Rawson.

"You have to remember that we're women playing a sport and sometimes people forget that," she said, quite matter-of-factly. "And women are pretty and women wear dresses and women get dressed up. That's what the pictures are, focusing on the glamour of women. Why not? I think it's great. I think it attracts fans to the sport."

More precisely, it attracts men to the sport. Or, at least, to the athlete.

Let's be clear: To confuse the LPGA with the Lingerie Football League is to confuse Carrot Top with comedy. It's all quite G-rated. But it's equally apparent that, admit it or not, it's just as marketing-friendly to embrace the more glamorous (re: sexy) aspects of the tour as, say, the oft-publicly discussed globalization of the game.

Face it, beauty works. And both ways, too.

Seriously, do you think all women watch men play sports for the same reasons the guys watch? And if it's considered an insult to focus on sex appeal in women's sports, then why do female curlers and Olympic athletes pose for (tastefully) nude calendars?

And why do I feel so uncomfortable just for raising the subject with female golfers who are so much more comfortable answering the question?

"I'm an athlete. I'm 24 years old. I like to wear skirts," offered Paula Creamer, a nine-time tour winner. "I don't feel I dress provocatively at all, but women have always gotten that as an athlete."

Finally, Creamer shrugged her shoulders and concluded: "You've got what you're born with, I guess."

In a grown-up, adult world, that should be the most honest answer.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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