- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2004

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m shocked — maybe even a little awed — by the sexed-up introduction to “Monday Night Football.”

Really — a ratings-starved network (ABC) using a sagging sports property (“MNF”) to publicize a hot new show (“Desperate Housewives”) with a skit involving the premier self-promoter in football (Terrell Owens), creating an attention-getting pseudo controversy looped ad nauseam on said network’s cable subsidiary (ESPN)?

Never saw that one coming. The nerve.

Certainly, this is cause for complaint. For one, I nearly saw Nicollette Sheridan’s shapely backside on network television, an honor previously reserved for the decidedly unshapely Dennis Franz; even worse, I saw far too much of Sheridan’s puffy, lumpy, Lil’ Kim-shaming face, which would have made Franz’s rear a welcome relief. Try explaining that to the kids.

Daddy, what’s Botox? Er, think of it as a $500 bee sting. To the face. It makes you look younger!

Appalled and outraged — though not at T.O., whose Christmas-in-November smile following Sheridan’s towel doff rivaled Michael Jordan’s Ballpark Frank-eatin’ grin for understated thespianic brilliance — I’ve decided to pen a strongly worded letter. Mostly because I’m in the business of, well, strongly worded letters.

The following goes out to the NFL, the FCC, the District’s elected representatives in the U.S. Senate — ahem! — and anyone else concerned about the soggy moral fiber of our once-proud, now 48 percent blue state nation.

Ready? Follow along:

Dear (insert acronym),

I am utterly disappointed and deeply dismayed by the decision to show the uncovered shoulder blades of a C-list actress during this week’s broadcast of “Monday Night Football.” Think, as always, of the children. Once the country has resolved its most pressing crisis and ensured that marriage remains the exclusive right of committed, responsible heterosexuals such as the Hilton sisters and Britney Spears. I beseech you to address this matter. Perhaps with a Constitutional Amendment requiring Ms. Sheridan and Co. to wear burqas.

After all, if I wanted to view sexually suggestive material during football games, I would direct my attention to the pneumatic, scantily clad women gyrating on the sidelines. Or go online and order the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders’ official lingerie calendar, then swallow some of those happy pills Mike Ditka keeps mentioning …

Oops. Hold up. Come to think of it, this sex ‘n’ football problem is worse than it seems. In fact, Sheridan’s exposed lower back is merely the tip of the iceberg, the metal sun clamp on Janet Jackson’s bare right breast.

To put it another way: in pro football, titillation is everywhere, with the possible exception of Paul Tagliabue’s annual Super Bowl press conference.

Take cheerleaders. They’re young. They bounce. Their uniforms generally are made up of less fabric than Sheridan’s towel. Family friendly? Maybe at Hugh Hefner’s house.

Clearly, this issue alone is going to require a separate letter — possibly two, given the frequent airings of that Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders’ swimsuit calendar “making of” special.

And what about all those Levitra and Cialis ads? A man throws a football through a backyard tire, much to his wife’s inexplicable delight. A couple sits in adjacent outdoor bathtubs overlooking a sunset. They touch fingers.

The obvious implication? Full-on orgy, film at 11. And another letter. (One to the doctor, too, if the intended effect of the drug in question lasts for more than four hours.)

Then there’s the cloying, self-serving coverage of the “MNF” controversy on ESPN News. Each segment comes with a stern warning: What follows is a bit steamy. Tell your kids to leave the room.

Translation? Please don’t complain to the FCC, which might fine us. Oh, and don’t you dare change the channel. Meanwhile, the network repeatedly airs the skit, which plays like the setup scene in a porn film. Laughable acting, implausible scenario. Owens might as well be the pool boy. Need some lotion, ma’am?

Letter, letter, letter.

Speaking of Owens, the chiseled wide receiver recently appeared in GQ magazine oiled up and wearing a toga. Which brings up another point. Football pants are tight. Football players are pumped. According to a recent ESPN.com story, most of them don’t wear cups.

Granted, female and gay viewers might enjoy the results. But is this really the sort of thing we want the little ones watching?

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced the NFL is awash in potentially unsuitable and inappropriate sexual content — and that’s without mentioning the Coors Light twins. Frankly, one angry letter isn’t going to be enough; anyone seeking significant change will have to launch a campaign.

Thing is, I’m too lazy. However, I’ve come up with another way of expressing my distaste. Feel free to join me. From now on, I’m turning off football — and turning on “Desperate Housewives.”

At least the latter is honest about what it’s selling.

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