The Elite Swimsuit Edition

Last weekend I had lunch with my mom.

These visits tend to take a rather ritualistic form. We each drive an hour to meet in the middle (usually at our favorite mall South Coast Plaza), we have lunch and my mom brings me random things she thinks I need, like socks.

This visit, she brought me a piece of Americana- the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition. 

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What else is February for?

Now, clearly I’m not exactly the demographic that this magazine appeals to, but I do love sports and my family has a subscription to Sports Illustrated, so the swimsuit edition is just part of the package. I have an open mind- female empowerment, own your body and that type of thing. OK.

So I took a look through the magazine. Christie Brinkley with the center spread- yeah she looks good, but why? Model, model, model, are there any athletes in this issue at all? Hannah Jeter- does she count as an athlete now that she tamed Derek Jeter?

On page 84, I finally come across some actual athletes- Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and Simone Biles. And I promptly wished that this issue actually was just full of professional models.

The spread with the two of them was a little shocking, to say the least. Aly Raisman looks like she is trying to remind the world that she’s a grown woman who goes on dates with football players as she posed topless and in other rather indecent poses. Simone Biles just looks plain uncomfortable. I feel you Simone, I am uncomfortable as well.

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This is not what was in SI

Reason number one I am uncomfortable- I still think of these gymnasts as kids.

Obviously, Raisman and Biles are both technically adults now, Raisman slightly more so at age 22. Yet, the thing about gymnastics is that you watch the sport as these athletes are growing up. Many gymnasts hit their peak performance between ages 16-18. The Olympic qualifying age is 16, and gymnasts are often left disappointed when they qualify on skill but do not make the age cut-off. Elite junior gymnastics ranges from ages 11-15, and from there gymnasts can turn elite and make the national team at 16. From the age of 11, gymnasts can be under media scrutiny if they are really good. Personally, I don’t want to see someone I watched maneuver through their adolescent years do a spread in a magazine that is only a slightly more covered version of Playboy.

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So young, so innocent

Simone Biles is 19 years old. She’s old enough to make her own decisions, vote, live by herself, etc. But she’s also been a superior competitor her whole life. Her life has been consumed by schedules and competitions. In turning pro, she is also consumed by endorsements and sponsors. 19 years old is still very young. I would not have been ready for any of this when I was 19. At 19, I was still bringing home my laundry and calling my mom to cry about how creepy boys can be (I still bring home my laundry and boys are still creepy). I imagine Simone led an even more sheltered life, consumed by training and competition. Is she really ready to be in the swimsuit edition? I can only hope Biles has a support system to tell her she doesn’t need to accept every media deal that comes her way and she doesn’t need to sell her body to stay relevant. She’s already gone down as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

Reason number two I am uncomfortable- has anyone read the news about the major gymnastics sex scandal going on?

Now, this spread would probably have made me uncomfortable either way, but it is in just very poor taste to do a spread as provocative as this one amongst the allegations of sexual abuse in USA gymnastics.

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I really hope they didn’t know

For those of you who might not know, several national gymnasts have come forward about alleged sexual abuse at the hands of a team doctor. Furthermore, the courts just released 5,600 pages of documents that detail how USA gymnastics did not properly ban coaches convicted of sexual abuse. If true, these allegations reveal decades of sexual abuse. As mentioned above, these gymnasts are competing at the elite level from the age of 11. They go through puberty with their team and coaches. It should be a safe space for them, but that appears to have been taken away.

The Sports Illustrated spread just feels like incredibly bad timing. I’m sure when the photos were taken the scandal hadn’t escalated to what it is now, but SI had plenty of time to pull those photos when the allegations were made public in December of 2016. Would it have cost them money? Sure. Would it have been the right thing to do? Absolutely.

I am a gymnastics fan and I have a ton of respect for both Aly Raisman and Simone Biles. However, I don’t think this spread was the right move for their public image or for Sports Illustrated’s.

Perfect Illusion

“They [the Falcons] are the underdogs.”

“The Patriots have more experience.”

“Ryan is good, but you can never count out Brady.”

“It will be a close game, but the Patriots will win.”

Turns out…they were right.

In the greatest Super Bowl comeback in history, the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime to win Super Bowl LI.

The Falcons came out of the gate strong Sunday night, leading 21-3 at halftime. Their defense sacked Brady twice in the same drive in the first quarter, against an offense who has only allowed fifteen sacks on Brady all season. The Falcons scored a pick-six off Brady to put them ahead 21-0.

The Patriots went into the locker room at the half having only managed to score a field-goal.

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Falcons’ fans rejoice at this sight of Brady

Troy Aikman repeatedly reminded America that no team has ever come back from more than a ten-point deficit in the Super Bowl.

And let’s not forget,  the Falcons also had two important groups in their corner. The puppies and the pigs.

I am of course referring to Live with Kelly’s  and The Tonight Show’s Super Bowl predicting pigs and puppies, respectively.

Kelly Ripa and guest co-host Carrie Ann Inaba raced pigs this week to predict who would win the Super Bowl. The Notorious P.I.G., representing the Falcons, immediately ran down the field to the end-zone. Meanwhile, Piggy Smalls, repping the Patriots, took his time moseying down the field, while periodically stopping and grazing. By all accounts of the first half of the actual game, it seemed like these pigs were on to something.

Jimmy Fallon’s puppies were equally tuned in to the Falcons’ bandwagon. The majority of the hungry puppies went straight to the Falcons bowl, ignoring the less popular Patriots bowl.

Yet, while the Falcons seemingly had everything going for them as they took the field in the second half, there was one important factor that may explain why they lost the largest lead in Super Bowl history and gave away 31 unanswered points- Bill Plaschke.

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Readers of the Los Angeles Times may be familiar with writer Bill Plaschke who has, by self-admission, correctly predicted three out of seventeen Super Bowls. That’s fifteen miscalled Super Bowls. Bill recognizes his own short-comings and even apologized to the Falcons for predicting that this was their year. He regretfully wrote this morning, “The Falcons seem like like such a nice bunch of folks, it’s a shame to jinx them like this, but all the human signs point to a huge upset of arguably the greatest dynasty in NFL history.”

Well Bill, you predicted an upset alright, just not quite what you were hoping for. There are many unpredictable things that have happened over the past several months, but it’s comforting to know that taking the opposite view of Bill Plaschke is still the closest one can get to a sure bet.

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Matt Ryan can take comfort in the fact that it wasn’t his fault. This epic comeback was destined to happen. All he had to do was read the Los Angeles Times this morning.