News: The First 5 Minutes May Be Lingerie, but the Rest Is Hardcore Football

The First 5 Minutes May Be Lingerie, but the Rest Is Hardcore Football

In America, football has become religion. And that religion has blossomed into an unstoppable juggernaut, which has rocked the very foundations of both television and business. In an era where fragmentation has savaged traditional network television, the NFL's Nielsen ratings (both the season games and the Superbowl) have defied gravity and actually increased

Considering this context, what programming could possibly stand side-by-side with tomorrow's epic NFL television event? Naturally, football and scantily clad women. The Lingerie Football League airs it's very own competitive Bowl during the Super Bowl half time shows, played out in the unsurprising venue of Las Vegas, city of sin.

In anticipation of tomorrow's game, we've spoken with two players from the opposing LFL Bowl teams. Natalie Janke, of Rancho Cucamonga, CA, plays center for the Los Angeles Temptation, last year's reining LFL champs, and Lauren La Bella, of Long Island, NY, plays offensive line for the Philadelphia Passion. 

Pictured left, Natalie Janke. To the right, Lauren La Bella.

Before you scoff at these skimpily dressed ladies, bare in mind, like any legitimate athletic league, the LFL is an intriguing mix of true athleticism and commerce know-how. And don't kid yourself, these ladies play hard.

Tell us about your athletic background.

Natalie: I'm an avid sports fan. I've played sports all my life—hockey, softball, track, and cheerleading. Anything I could do to be athletic, I've tried. I love playing football. There's nothing like it. It's a full contact sport, the only sport where you can go and hit somebody and not get a penalty or fine for it. It's invigorating when you're out on the field, the fans yelling for you and you know you've gotta go hit the uniform off the other girl. There's nothing like it. Indescribable feeling.

Lauren: I started off playing college lacrosse for Drexel University, Division 1. I'm also a personal trainer. One day, I was running on a treadmill watching the news and saw the LFL try-outs for Philadelphia, and I thought, I should go try out for that. And here I am.

Natalie in training.

Just how tough is the LFL?

Natalie: Women can have a catty nature, so as far as the competitive edge goes, it's really taken to the next level. The women in this league have made this a do-or-die kind of thing. Anything that's bothering you, any hardships, you take it out on the field and that's where you leave it. It can be an emotional experience for many women because they're so determined to put their heart and soul into it. It's a year round sport, especially when you come off a championship season like we did last year. We train off season, and practice doesn't end for us with this Bowl.

Lauren: The LFL is extremely competitive. I played in the league's first season, and ended up trying out again, and playing again this year. From last season to this season is completely different. We've really amped it up. Everyone thinks we're just a bunch of girls running around in our underwear, trying to get people in the seats. But we hit hard. And practice is intense. It's not like we're getting together for only an hour a week to throw a football around.

The Philly Passion. Lauren stands top row, fifth from the left.

Why the lingerie?

Natalie: There are other leagues out there, such as the IWFL, and they wear full pads. They do not have the following we do. They also do not have the competitive edge we do. Obviously the lingerie is risqué, but I have to say, it's invigorating to play in. It makes you feel sexy, as well as tough, and taps into a market that hasn't been tapped into. Obviously sex sells. If the league wasn't about sex, it wouldn't be as successful as it is. But there's so much more to it. You've just got to watch. It's sex for the first five minutes, and then it's hardcore football for the rest.

Lauren: It's really just to get people to come to the games. The sad thing is, with women and sports, there's not enough of it televised. And the only way to get it televised is to bring something sexual into it. We're just as athletic, if not more, as other women leagues. Nearly every girl on our team, except for two players, were serious college athletes. I know a couple girls who actually left USA teams in their sports to come out to the LFL.

The Los Angeles Temptation. Natalie stands top row, fourth from the left.

Those pads look pretty skimpy. Is it enough protection?

Natalie: This is a very dangerous sport. The helmets are hockey helmets, and it's not like you have the guard right in front of your face. If a girl hits you in the mouth, you're taking a shot to the mouth. There is no protection. It's such an adrenaline rush, I don't think we notice just how dangerous the sport is until we're looking back, watching film on a game, or scouting a different team. Then we're like, oh my God, we're half naked and we don't have real pads and helmets.

Lauren: It's not like you're playing with a lot of protection, so you've really got to be able to take a hit. I guess that's the best way to put it. You have very little elbow pads and knee pads, but that's in keeping with the concept of being able to see the lingerie. You couldn't wear full pants and huge shoulder pads.

How serious are the injuries?

Natalie: Luckily there haven't been too many horrible injuries. There are always knee injuries. In the NFL, the linemen have to wear braces to protect their knees. Its mandatory, as precaution.

Lauren: I broke my nose in two places the first game of the season.

Natalie stands second from the left, Lauren stands fourth from the left.

Wardrobe malfunctions?

Natalie: There are always wardrobe malfunctions, but it's not something you go out on the field and intentionally do. The players aren't there to rip your bottom or top off; that's prohibited in the league. It does happen, but there haven't been too many incidents that have been aired on MTV 2. If you're looking for wardrobe malfunctions, I don't think the LFL is necessarily for you.

Lauren: No wardrobe malfunctions this year. Last year I think I lost my top about ten times, but this year our uniforms are much better. So no wardrobe malfunctions yet.

We previously featured a news spot on the Mayor of Oklahoma City banning the LFL. What's your response to that kind of criticism?

Natalie: My only response is you've got to watch a game. When you hear lingerie football, football takes a back seat and you think, oh my goodness, what is this? Some people feel it takes a stab at their morals and values, but they've just got to watch a game. They have to see how passionate these women are about playing football. Its not just "oh, hit me, hit me, touch me here, touch me there". Watch the determination and motivation that we have on the field. It's a sport like any other sport out there.

Lauren: When I first started playing, everyone asked me "how did you tell your dad you're going to do this?" because I have a very strict italian family. But I just told my family to come to the games. If you see how much we put in, and how hard we train, it's clear it's not just about running around, showing off our bodies. We also have a great female fan base. I initially thought our entire stadium was going to be packed with 10,000 guys, but we get tons of girls that come out to watch. We have a male mascot. One very enormously jacked body builder.

Last question. Steelers or Packers?

Natalie: Go Pack Go!!

Lauren: Steelers!

The Los Angeles Temptation and Philadelphia Passion will go head-to-head tomorrow at 5 p.m PST, airing on Pay Per View.

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