Are You Ready for Some… Lingerie Football?

Published Sept. 10, 2009 by San Diego News Network (

Strap on your helmet, shoulder pads, bra and panties. After a few years as a Pay-Per-View Super Bowl halftime show, the Lingerie Football League opens its doors for the first time this year with 10 teams nationwide and hoping to expand to all 32 NFL markets in the next six years.

League play officially began last week but the San Diego Seduction play their first game tomorrow at the Seattle Mist. Since regular team training began in January, players have had to deal with the same things other football players do.

There are plays and formations to learn, broken bones and injuries and barking perfectionist coaches. Still, no one, not even the league’s founder, is sure if bringing garter belts to the gridiron will be a success, either financially in these trying times or in convincing fans that it’s real football.

The concept of the LFL began in the stands at Qualcomm Stadium here in San Diego while Mitch Mortaza was watching the Super Bowl XXXVII halftime show in 2003.

“Visibly all around the stadium people were leaving their seats at halftime,” Mortaza said. “People really aren’t interested in seeing lip-syncing 70-year-old artists.”

But he wasn’t just a guy with an idea. Mortaza works in sports marketing for companies like Major League Baseball and the National Football League. LFL games will be syndicated in every regional TV market teams play in and, of course, a reality TV show is set to premiere next fall on a major cable network roughly titled “Lingerie Football League: Under the Lace.”

It will be “Disneyland for football fans” Mortaza said with a pre-game tailgate, video game lounges and music and beer gardens. Following the game, fans will have a chance to meet players, get autographs or go to official after parties with the team. Mortaza described his players as the Anna Kournikovas and Danica Patricks of football: women who aren’t the best at what they do but gorgeous enough for the world, and advertisers, to take notice.

“We’ve in essence taken models or beautiful women and transformed them to football players and I think their level of play is going to take everyone by surprise,” Mortaza said.

Before being selected in tryouts last fall and this spring, players were put through background checks to ensure there are no strippers or porn stars. There might be a few Playboy models, Mortaza said, but also police officers and mothers and women from all walks of life.

Rica Manalastas, 24, is a wide receiver and free safety for the Seduction. Originally from Guam, she came to San Diego in high school and heard about the LFL from a commercial during a Chargers game. When she saw the ad, she didn’t take the idea of lingerie football seriously but went to tryouts anyway to become one of 12 women chosen for the team out of about 200. Players are paid a percentage of the gate if they win the game but the money is just a bonus, Manalastas said.

“I came to play football. Even if they didn’t pay me I would still be here playing right now.”

“I’ve invested all my time like since January. I’m injured, we’re both injured and were still here. Every practice. Cause we’re that passionate about the game,” she said of herself and team mate Tiffany Harrison.

When she isn’t playing football, Manalastas is getting her Master’s in physical therapy from the University of California, San Diego and is a research technician for a company that helps make medical equipment to monitor brain activity.

Harrison, 23, also sidelined in August with a knee injury, plays middle linebacker and tight end for the Seduction and like Manalastas, is a student at UCSD who has never had a modeling career. She expects fans won’t take them serious at first but they will eventually see “it’s not just a bunch of girls ripping off each others clothes. It’s actually going to be kicking ass.”

Crystal Tarifa played professional women’s football for five years before coming to the Seduction to play cornerback and wide receiver, three years with the So Cal Scorpions and two on the California Quake out of Los Angeles.

“It takes smart, talented, athletic women to play football,” Tarifa said of her team mates on all three teams “because we weren’t raised like boys to play since we were five-years-old.”

“They’re both [LFL and other leagues] very intense, full contact sports. I still strap on my helmet and put in my mouthpiece when I play.”

San Diego’s women’s football teams have competed well against others nationwide. To date, the So Cal Scorpions may be the most successful women’s football team in San Diego’s history. Their 2007 Women’s Professional Football League championship gave San Diego its first national championship in football in more than 40 years.

That milestone was reached at Edwards Stadium at La Jolla High School where the Seduction now practice.

On top of a championship, that year the team would go 8-2 and send 22 Scorpions out of a total 44 players to their conference All-Pro roster, a league record and great improvement from the two players on the All-Pro team in 2003, the Scorpion’s first year in the league.

Team running back Desiree Weimann, who broke her neck playing in 2005, recovered from her injuries and two years later become the league’s MVP. Still, said team spokeswoman Jody Taylor, no one noticed.

“We won the championship in San Diego and if you asked 10 people, maybe one knew.”

The WPFL has since been shut down for “restructuring” and many of its teams have moved to the Independent Women’s Football League. The San Diego Sunfire, another local team, never had a losing season and their non-profit Gridiron Girls held football camps for young girls across San Diego until the team stopped playing four years ago.

Both teams are in the San Diego Hall of Champions but no professional women’s football team from San Diego has lasted more than five seasons. Crystal Tarifa said she would like to see her old Scorpion team mates try out for the Seduction in the future but Mortaza said don’t bother. He has no plans to recruit or seek partnerships with other women’s football organizations like the 51 teams across the U.S. and in Montreal playing in the Independent Women’s Football League.

“No offense to them but they couldn’t be further from what we’re doing here,” Mortaza said. “Women’s athletics haven’t been that popular primarily because they’re not the most attractive people in the world usually and in this day and age your brand has to be marketable.”

Teresa Smith who played wide receiver for the Scorpions, said she doesn’t see the two leagues as comparable either. “I would probably hurt those people,” Smith said. “Because I played on a real team.” The Scorpions played by NFL standards for a 10-game season but the LFL plays a four game season, seven-on-seven in two 15-minute halves on a 50-yard field.

“It sort of reminds me of Roller Derby. I don’t see how that can be taken seriously to be honest. I guess I’m not offended but it comes off as some kind of joke,” she said. Smith agrees that sex sells and that women’s professional sports has  never been a huge money maker but thinks playing the LFL’s game may come at the cost of not being “a true representation of sport.”

Lindsay Hood was known by teammates as the “littlest piggy” on the Scorpions offensive line, where some women weighed in over 300 pounds. Hood played right tackle for the Scorpions for three years and now commutes from her University Heights home to Los Angeles to play for the California Quake, who are currently in the off-season.

She thinks the Seduction will prove they can play but thinks the novelty and excitement may wear off. Hood wants to see a game played between the LFL and her California Quake.

All those 100-something-pound women would “get crushed” by “a bunch of stalky big girls ready to kill somebody,” she said. But playing that game may be a bit challenging since the Quake’s quarterback Joey Davenport is now playing for the LA Temptation, one of the few crossovers from the IWFL to the LFL. Fans will have a chance to see the team and judge for themselves when the Seduction play their first home game at the San Diego Sports Arena Oct. 16 against the Dallas Desire.

Comments are closed.