- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

I can almost guarantee that you've never seen these names in the same sentence.
Bud Selig and Anna Kournikova. Naked power and just naked. Or was she?
(I know this is a reach, but what isn't these days?)
First Kournikova, the sexiest Russian since Khrushchev, who does much better at attracting Web site hits than tennis titles. (If you'd put Bud ahead of Anna, you've got big problems.)
A week or so ago, Penthouse magazine that bastion of raw journalism ran a photo spread of a woman that it said was Kournikova sunning herself on a beach. This might have occasioned only mild comment except that the woman was letting it all hang out, meaning topless.
In addition to that revoltin' state of affairs, the woman if you bothered to look at her face obviously was not Anna. The two shared only two characteristics: female gender and blond hair. Otherwise, she resembled Kournikova about as much as Calista Flockhart does Marilyn Monroe.
Oops, bad comparison. Marilyn did the nude bit in Playboy the first issue, in fact, 49 years ago.
Anyway, the daughter-in-law of fashion designer Luciano Benetton now has revealed, if that's the word, that she is the woman in Penthouse. Judith Soltesz-Benetton was shocked, her lawyer said, to discover that a photographer had snapped the photos in Florida seven years ago. "She's not happy about being naked in Penthouse," added the mouthpiece, which suggests that Soltesz-Benetton would have been happy being naked in, say, Oprah or Cosmo if such a thing were possible.
Yesterday Soltesz-Benetton sued the magazine for 10 big ones $10 million, that is and Penthouse apologized, saying, "We deeply regret this unintentional error." Of course the parties will settle out of court.
Earlier, a U.S. District Court judge in New York ordered Penthouse to stop distributing its June issue or putting the pictures on its Web site. And in the week's best non-political example of doublespeak, attorney Victor Kovner agreed that the photos seemed not to be of Kournikova but said the magazine would prove at a hearing next week that it had acted responsibly and added that the error would "be rectified as promptly as [we] can do that."
Coming next month, a photo spread of Kournikova identifying her as Soltesz-Benetton?
If all this proves anything, perhaps it's that we shouldn't turn good-looking athletes into celebrities until they've won something. All of Kournikova's physical attributes wouldn't help her in a match against Lindsay Davenport, whom nobody has ever confused with a glamourpuss. For that matter, Martina Navratilova wasn't exactly a knockout nor did she have to be. She was simply a magnificent athlete, which was all that mattered.
Remember pro golfer Laura Baugh, who broke male hearts much more often than par, a couple of decades back? Or Gussie Moran, whose lace-trimmed panties set Wimbledon all aflutter in the late '40s? They never won much of anything either. Looking good is one thing. Playing good as jocks and jockettes like to say is something totally different.
Now, in case you're wondering how I'm going to get from Anna Kournikova to Bud Selig, so am I.
How about this: Bud is living in such a fantasy world that he might believe Judith Soltesz-Benetton is Anna Kournikova?
The other day, Selig told a group of sports editors that he wasn't worried about baseball's declining attendance and other problems. When it comes to make-believe, this makes the editors of Penthouse look like George Washington after he chopped down the cherry tree.
Problems, what problems, Bud seemed to be saying. Well
The likelihood of another work stoppage during or after the season because the owners and players are too stubborn to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
Competitive imbalance.
Length of games.
The fact that young people are turning to basketball as their sport of choice about as fast as they're queuing up to see "Spider-Man."
The fact that nobody except Selig and his greedy owners think contraction is a good idea.
The continuing absence of the (former?) national pastime in the nation's capital.
The lack of a salary cap, which often forces families to take out a second mortgage before they can afford to take in a game.
And last but not least, the fact that Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn and Mark McGwire have retired, which puts a nasty dent in the available supply of admirable role models in knickers.
There are other problems, of course, but you get the drift. And I'm beginning to get a bad feeling about baseball returning to the Washington area anytime soon. Bud tossed us a bone by saying awhile back that we were the "prime candidate" for relocation, but I haven't seen any meat and potatoes.
Heck, we might have to settle, entertainment-wise, for a make-believe Anna Kournikova visiting one of our nearby beaches.