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Pittsburgh's getting a fantasy team

| Thursday, March 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

It's always nice when Pittsburgh is recognized as a metropolitan city that can help boost a brand or a product.

If a business is going to pitch something here, it helps if it's sports-related. It helps more if it's football. And it really helps if the athletes are attractive women who aren't wearing much.

The Legends Football League is bringing an expansion team to Pittsburgh. Ever heard of it? Perhaps you'd best know it by its former name: the Lingerie Football League.

It is so gratifying to see fellow females breaking the stereotypes that have plagued us for centuries, showing that women can do anything that men can do. We're so much better at it, in fact, that we don't even need clothing to do it.

Hopefully the team name will reflect that progress as women and empowered athletes. Maybe our team will be called, the Iron City Betty Drapers? The Black and Gold Secretaries? Oh, how about Pittsburgh Maids?

Just as long as it's something that advances women past all the stereotypes that have hamstrung us for so long. Like the Baltimore Charm, Atlanta Steam or the Las Vegas Sin.

Mitchell Mortaza, the league's founder, told me he is trying to rebrand his product. The name change to something less, ah, sensual is obviously part of that effort. Probably what it does is make people think they're going to see Franco Harris square off against Hines Ward, only to see women playing football in their underwear.

OK, that sounds judgmental. They don't just play in their underwear. The players appear to have skills and are equipped with shoulder pads, helmets and boots.

Really, the best way to find out about what this league is all about is through the founder. I asked Mortaza how he could expect people to take it seriously. His response: The league's critics usually are people who have never seen a game.

“Those who have understand that this indeed is a sport played by former high-level collegiate athletes,” he said in an email.

To be fair, I haven't seen a game. But about 200 videos of game highlights are posted on YouTube, so I watched a few.

Let's set the scene: Male voiceover talking about how beautiful the game is — not the women, but their style of game — as a camera zooms in for a close-up shot of a player tightening her Victoria's Secret-type bra. You know, for aerodynamics.

Pittsburgh actually already has a team in a women's football league. It's called the Passion (still with these names), and they wear full uniforms when they play. So why bring in a team from a league that looks to appeal primarily to male fantasy, and not sports fans?

“These are intelligent women who come from all types of backgrounds, including lawyers, doctors, military personnel, mothers, etc.,” Mortaza said. “Hardly the type of women that would allow themselves to be exploited.”

Well, if you're in on it, that's not exploitation.

What does Mortaza think about kicker Lauren Silberman, the first female to get a tryout at the NFL Combine? Some reports said she twice dribbled the ball downfield from the tee because she had a leg injury but decided to try anyway. Others suggested she was merely seeking her 15 minutes of fame.

“The LFL is only interested in real football players, not kickers,” Mortaza replied.

So there ARE standards.

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, nvanaski@tribweb.com or Twitter @NafariTrib.

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