LFL kicks off nationwide

By JeffGraveline

Chicago is full of sports teams: Bears, Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks, Bulls,  and Fire fill the professional sports landscape and represent the city in every major sport. Chicagoans can add another team to the list as the Chicago Bliss of the Lingerie Football League kicked off its inaugural season Sept. 4 at the Sears Center, 5333 Prairie Stone Parkway in Hoffman Estates.

The new league features 10 teams from around the country playing four games over a 20-week season.

Teams in the LFL are made up of 20 women who were chosen from “casting sessions” (LFL-speak for tryout). Of the 20-woman roster, 14 are active on game day, with the other six inactive.

“This was created from the Lingerie Bowl conception from a few years back,” said Justin Schoenrock, a supervising producer for the league. “It took place during the Super Bowl halftime on pay-per-view. It was a little half-hour broadcast and featured a lot of models playing football. Since then, now that we’ve gone league-wide, we’ve taken that concept back to the drawing board. Now instead of just focusing on the lingerie part of it, now it’s focused on the athleticism part.”

LFL teams are made up of women from all walks of life. The Bliss  team comprises   mothers, a Chicago police officer and even college students, including Columbia senior sports journalism major Amy Grogan.

“I was in a journalism class with Howard [Schlossberg], and one of my chick friends was like, ‘Hey, there’s this football league and we should try out for it,’” Grogan said. “I was like, ‘You’re crazy,’ and we were talking about it and talking about it, and the more I learned about it, the more interested I became.”

After trying out, Grogan and others who made the team started training camp and practices. The Bliss practice three days per week for about three hours a day, going full contact at most practices.

“It’s pretty intense. I mean, we have turf burns, bruises—my whole right hand is jammed,” said Breanna Juena, 20, a senior journalism major at Roosevelt University.

While the Bliss may be part of a professional league, it has taken some time for supporters to get past the look of the teams.

Clad in underwear, a garter and sparse padding, the women of the LFL are trying to turn heads with their talent on the field as well as their bodies.

“It is a skin show and that’s fine, but if you can see past our bodies you’re going to see real football,” Grogan said. “You’re going to see real tackling and you’re going to see real plays against other real talented teams. You’re going to end up watching a highly entertaining, high-scoring football game.”

The LFL may only be in its infancy but already the league has drawn fans at a surprising rate.

Using word-of-mouth advertising and videos on the Internet, the Chicago Bliss and Miami Caliente drew more than 7,000 fans to the Sears Center for the inaugural game of the 2009 LFL season and ranked second in the primetime ratings on television as the game was broadcast on MyNet in Miami.

With their marketing strategy proven, the LFL is already looking to expand. According to Schoenrock, the league is scouting four or five potential new cities for next year and wants to build a diverse fan base around the globe.

The LFL has signed with Free Mantle Media, the company behind “American Idol” and other well known reality shows.

“They’re going to begin promoting the league internationally. We are already airing every week live throughout Mexico,” Schoenrock said. “We also air in Australia. They’re going to be working on taking us into the United Kingdom within the next couple weeks and even further into other countries. We’re already planning on providing our broadcasts with dubbed language versions.”

More information about the league, its teams, statistics  and standings  can be found at lflus.com.