It's the season's second-most discussed poll. We speak of
Playboy's Choose America's Sexiest Sportscaster contest, in
which the men's magazine asks readers to vote on its website for
the hottest among 10 female TV sports personalities. "The
winner," says Playboy sports editor Blair Fischer, "will be
asked to pose nude in an upcoming issue."
Darvalous. Ever since the 1970s a number of beautiful women have
been cast--or miscast--as TV sports journalists. A poll such as
Playboy's only contributes to the difficulty in distinguishing
which females on television are pursuing sports journalism and
which are merely pursuing stardom, and in determining whether
genuine reporting credentials are prized by network executives.
"We're backsliding" is the reaction of Fox Sports Net's Jeanne
Zelasko, whom Playboy didn't include in the contest. "When I
talk to young women about careers in this field, do I advise
them to get a solid background in sports and reporting, or do I
tell them to enter a beauty contest?"
According to Fox Sports Net publicist Greg Phillips, Fischer
misrepresented the intent of Playboy's editors when he phoned
requesting a photo of reporter Lisa Guerrero. "He told us that
they wanted to do a story on women sportscasters," says Phillips.
"The word poll or survey was never used."
Responds Fischer, "We didn't necessarily know we were going to do
a poll right away." Misled or not, none of the 10 contestants
have denounced the vote or contacted Playboy about being removed
from the ballot. "We're damned if we do and damned if we don't,"
says Guerrero. "It's easier to have a sense of humor about it."
In other words, just grin and--maybe later--bare it.
For some participants there was a limit to cooperation. ABC, for
instance, refused to send Playboy a photo of Monday Night
Football's Melissa Stark, so the magazine went with the one on
the network's website. On the other hand, according to Fischer,
he fielded phone calls from the publicist for NBC's NBA Inside
Stuff cohost Summer Sanders, as well as from the agent for CBS's
multisport reporter Bonnie Bernstein, offering Playboy their
latest photos. --J.W.
THE HOOP POOP
One fan's obsession leads to an all-purpose NBA-intensive website
Like the Pistons' Jerry Stackhouse, Jeff Lenchiner is a virtual
one-man basketball team. Last February, Lenchiner, a devotee of
the sport for most of his 28 years, launched his own website,
insidehoops.com. Netscape has designated his comprehensive and
smartly designed basketball address (dealing mostly with the NBA)
an Editor's Choice site, yet Lenchiner still manages it as if
it's a pickup game. "I received a request for our advertising
kit," says Lenchiner, who lives in Los Angeles and bankrolls the
site from savings. "I didn't have one. We do have some
advertisers, but I have no idea what to tell them about our
Tell them insidehoops.com is a haven for pro basketball junkies.
The site has statistics and schedules and salaries, and links
for such NBArcana as retired numbers and rumors. Lenchiner also
does interview features (last week with Heat guard Tim Hardaway)
and his own power rankings.
How does one person keep on top of the NBA? In some ways, he
doesn't. "If I don't have the information," says Lenchiner, who
attends eight games monthly, "I direct you to sites that do."
For example, Lenchiner found the retired numbers list by surfing
the Web. Now he posts it as a link. "We're hurting ourselves by
sending visitors away," he admits, "but I'm more concerned with
people finding what they're looking for. It's sort of like
getting an assist as opposed to a basket."
Maybe Lenchiner is more nouveau Allen Iverson than Stackhouse.