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Swimsuit issue illustrates larger societal ill: too little Stacey Williams

Forget Groundhog Day. I mean, who actually believes that some filthy, narcissistic rodent waking up from his deep slumber and looking for his shadow determines the length of winter? Everyone knows that spring doesn't officially begin until Heidi, Daniela and Estella show up on your doorstep sometime in late February.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Rest assured, every red-blooded, heavy-breathing American male most certainly does - it's the unveiling of the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, more sought after than Ken Griffey Jr. and more highly anticipated that the Davis Cup ... er, the NCAA Tournament.

Every nine- to 99-year-old boy/teen/man across this great nation is on a first name basis with Heidi, Daniela and Estella. They are the preeminent halterkini-clad beauties in all the land, with names (and other attributes) as big as Shaq, Deion or Goldberg. This is Aphrodite in spandex, Venus De Milo in lace. Please, no last names - just Daniela will suffice.

Related Links
  • href=""> Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition

  • href=""> CNN/SI's women's sports coverage

  • Now I'll be frank: I don't read the swimsuit issue for the articles. But upon perusing this year's red-hot release, I noticed two glaring omissions. First of all, where is Stacey Williams? Once the overlord of the annual in a time before Rachel Hunter turned 40 and when the Winter X Games didn't exist, Williams is now nowhere to be found.

    Secondly, where are the swimsuits? Call me a literalist, a Philistine or whatever you will, but it seems to me there is more skin than swim here.

    Rarely did a two-piece set include both pieces. Tops ranged from beads straight from Venus Williams' hair to fern leaves to frisky primates. It's all well and good that our exotic enchantresses are pulling a Thoreau and becoming one with nature, but again I ask the simple question: where is the second half of that two-piece?

    I'm sure no pubescent teen in his right mind gives a damn, but I can't resist the urge to play social conscience for a few precious minutes. This is a giant lie. This isn't a swimsuit issue, it's soft core porn.

    But wasn't the swimsuit issue created with simple enjoyment in mind? Why does it matter what they're wearing - or not wearing?

    It matters because it points to a sobering problem in our sporting society: our tendency to only notice those female athletes that are camera-friendly. We admire them for their good looks, not their good game.

    Take, for instance, women's tennis. Who are the two most popular players on the tour - why, none other than the two most physically striking ladies: Martina Hingis and Anna "Am I dating Pavel or Sergei this week?" Kournikova.

    Need more evidence? How about the World Cup champion U.S. women's soccer team? Brandi Chastain didn't wind up on the covers of SI and Newsweek because of her penalty-kicking prowess. She became a household name, face and body because she decided to pull a Demi Moore and tear off her jersey on national television.

    I don't remember spotting Briana Scurry's menacing scowl or Michelle Akers' poofy brown Afro gracing any newsstands.

    I'm not solely blaming the swimsuit issue for the sexist stereotypes that pervade our culture. But when a magazine as reputable as SI puts out a bathing suit bonanza and forgets the bathing suits, the problem is magnified.

    Solutions? First, let's reconsider how we view and present female athletes, who shatter traditional prejudices and raise the level of athletic brilliance daily.

    And if that doesn't work, at least bring back Stacey Williams.


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