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Michael Oliver



It’s late at night, around about one-thirty, two o’clock in the morning, and you find yourself sitting alone in a hotel room in Bangkok. You’re a demure sort of person, the kind who lambastes the flow of erotic sauces oozing out of every little corner in the Dirty B. One might even be so bold as to say you get your kicks above the waistline, sunshine.
But right now you’re awake, the night aches slowly outside, and you’re suddenly overcome with the urge to switch on your modest twenty-one inch hotel television and lull your senses into some kind of slumber.
The screen flashes, your eyebrow raises. Two women appear on screen, scantilyclad, sweat traversing across their brow. Their voices are like the endless night ache and moan as their taut bodies slither across from side to side, flexible, agile and deliciously nubile.
You find yourself entranced – these fair maidens have invited you into their private lair. You’ve stepped out of your prudish netherworld and into a slinky dive called the Big Apple, where the meadows are flushing, the moans of triumph echo and the language of love is often proceeded by the number fifteen.
“My lord in heaven,” you mumble, “I freakin LOVE tennis!”
Yes, while our debonair bachelor taunts his mojo with highlights of Maria Sharapova’s latest match, I thought we might turn the lights on and use his dirty little late night fantasy as a segue into one of the largest marketing ploys in sport – sex. Raunchy, torrid sex.
The sporting superstar industry, much like the film and music industries, exists in a realm where sex appeal sits high on the pecking order. Not too high, of course, because unlike movies and music, there’s no capital to be made in marketing a good looking sportsman or woman who’s a muppet in their chosen sport. Err…right?
The answer to the above question is a tentative “Mmmaybe.” We need to remember that sport exists on two levels; within itself and within the commercialised world. Within itself we find examples of tournaments, championships, leagues, world cups, test matches, races, the very arenas where sporting success is determined. Here, the traditionalists would argue, is the only waters for which sport need wade into. Success on the field will have its own domino effect and fans will flock or fly depending on the results of a particular player/team.
The commercial realm is trickier to describe. As many wanky media studies essays on post-modernism have noted, a number of factors, considerations, events, thoughts, tastes and desires congeal to form our fantabulous western society. Sport is a commodity; TV rights, sponsorship, endorsements – they all hinge on the immeasurable power that sport wields. And, yes, I would like to suggest that the attractiveness of the sporting competitors is hugely important in selling sport as a commodity…
….if you’re a woman.
It is an unfortunate situation that most women’s sports are subservient to their male counterparts. Women’s golf, basketball, hockey, rugby are all widely considered inferior compared with their male equivalents. Some would argue that this stems entirely from the naturalised order of things, a ripe-old argument that suggests that male sport is more compelling because they, as a species, are physically superior to females. Quite simply, nobody wants to watch a “second rate” women’s contest when there are far more physically proficient males to watch instead.
With this, we’ve effectively sliced the first realm of sport away, like The Bride did to Sophie in Kill Bill Vol. 1. And yet, women’s sport still enjoys a certain amount of coverage, well, the sports with “dem hot bitchez” do.
Think women’s tennis – Maria Sharapova and Anna Kournikova; two phenomenally attractive blonde Russians who have a particular penchant for playing their sport in ridiculously short skirts.
Women’s golf – Michelle Wie; tall, attractive American-Asian who often sports tanktops and thigh-high shorts whenever she’s on the fairway, and Natalie Gibbs, a striking blonde who too can sing along with that ‘Who Wears Short Shorts’ song.
Hell, even figure skating has a pearler of a representative in Taninth Belbin, anotherblonde bombshell who notes that her name stems from the Egyptian word for ‘Moon Goddess.’
Five women. Five gooooorgeous women, (think Tui ad), all prominent figures and media darlings. But guess what? There’s not a #1 ranking, not a single gold medal or major championship (this year anyway, touch wood) between them. Sharapova enjoyed success at Wimbledon in 2004, but has since slipped off the radar, whereas Kournikova failed to make it past the quarter finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland. Natalie Gibbs is coming in sixth on the WPGA’s money earner’s list and Tanith Belbin can only boast a silver medal at last year’s winter Olympics. Tennis aside, could you possibly name the number one player in each of those respective female sports? Bonus question: Could you name the issues of FHM they’ve been in?
When you’re constantly living in the shadow of ‘superior’ male competition, you do need to make inroads into the lucrative sporting market any way you can, and I certainly don’t blame anyone for marketing female sports this way. It is difficult to foresee a future where this isn’t the case; male sport is becoming increasingly commercialised and overhyped, and female sport is its dainty (but pretty) companion.
That said, there will always be horny men sitting alone in hotels, so there will always be a place for female sports, just so long as you’re not too hung up on the result, (though I guess being ‘hung up’ would defeat the purpose…).