Nowadays, What It Says Isn't Always What It Is, Sport

Greetings, fellow sex perverts.

No, I'm not here to review the magazine article in which a certain female-type traveling companion exposes the dating habits of a famed New England baseball club and its star hitter, who has developed an innovative rule for safe sex: Always use a flash camera.

That's not my field of expertise.

All I want to do is register a beef against Sports Illustrated for tarnishing my good name, or at least my good face, and stealing my money.

One day last week, I went into a little sundries shop downtown, across the street from where I work, to buy magazines. I strolled right past the skin magazines and grabbed a copy of Sports Illustrated and a copy of the New Yorker. I'm not bragging; I read New Yorker for the cartoons, many of which I understand.

The SI happens to be--cue the searchlights, sirens, trumpets, neon arrows--the annual swimsuit issue.

The lady behind the counter took my money and narrowed her eyes at me.

"Looks like you'rrrrrre going to have a nice day," she said, her voice moving through two or three octaves.

I started to explain that I'm a sportswriter and I need to keep tabs on sports news, and that I buy dozens of sports publications every month . . .

"I'm sure you're a biiiiiig sports fan," she sang.

I think she also winked and elbowed the other woman behind the counter, but that could be my imagination. Details are hazy.

For all I know, the woman also activated a hidden video camera. The government photo file of potential deviates probably now contains a grainy 8x10 of me slinking out of the little store, cramming a magazine into my carrying case.

Now imagine my surprise when, at the privacy of my own work desk, with only two or three co-workers hanging over my shoulders like home plate umpires, I riffle through the magazine and find no sports , illustrated or otherwise. Nothing but photos of young women in bathing suits, more or less, and in-depth feature stories about the young women.

A co-worker informs me that SI put the swimsuits in a special issue this year, apart from the regular sports stuff issue. I've been had, stung for $3.95. I double checked the cover. It said "Sports Illustrated." There was no disclaimer, no "Absolutely No Sports News Inside" warning.

In addition, I now realize how my mumbling self-defense speech across the street was as flimsy as some of the swimwear in my magazine. The sales clerk knew there was no sports news inside, and she knew that I knew, even though I really didn't.

By the way, I hope by writing about this I'm not stimulating magazine sales. The last thing I want to do is become part of the hoopla and the controversy that this particular issue of the magazine thrives on.

Personally, I'm SI swimsuit-issue-ed out. I'm sick of the debate--sportswear or sleaze?--that occupies more of our time than the question of whether or not amoeba-brained street assassins should be able to purchase attack rifles from coin-operated vending machines.

I didn't watch the TV special on "The Making of the SI Swimsuit Issue," nor did I watch the TV news report on the making of the "Making of the SI Swimsuit Issue."

If there is a Ted Koppel investigation into the alleged abuses in recruiting of the models, I won't watch it. If George Steinbrenner is named to chair a commission to study the swimsuits, or if David Horowitz field-tests the products on TV, I won't read or watch. This is a one-man boycott, or a one-boy mancott, or whatever.

Incidentally, I have nothing against women in swimsuits. I think they really brighten up a beach. I don't even mind finding them mixed in with my sports news once a year, even if some of the poses are the type that, years ago, would have cried out to have an artist paint black rectangles over the models' eyes.

It's just that I don't like to be duped of hyped, and I've been both.

So don't get your curiosity all piqued and run out and buy the magazine, even if it's still on the racks. That would make me an accessory.

Ladies, if you really want to know what's in style for swimsuits this year, based on my quick perusal of this special issue, I can sum it up--minimal stern coverage and minimal fabric density.

A simple fashion tip: Just take last year's swimsuit, rip out the washing-instructions tags, throw away the swimsuit and wear the tags.

But this column is starting to sound like a Geraldo Rivera segment, which is not the way I wanted it to turn out.

It's supposed to serve as a consumer alert: Don't judge a magazine by its title, unless its title is something like "Hubba Hubba" or "King Leer."

I hope this also clears my good name across the street, even though the ladies there don't know my name.

I also hope the New Yorker doesn't have an annual swimsuit issue.

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