Lace ’em up, girls

Brace yourself Toronto. The Lingerie Football League is coming.

Rest assured, local ladies Krista Ford and Melissa Grieco, who are trying out for final 20-woman roster, are more interested in flexing their muscles in competition than running around in their skivvies.

“It’s just the way it is, it’s what we play in and, to be honest, the way I see it is that’s what brings people in,” Ford tells Toronto Today. “It is the good-looking girls, it is the uniform, that’s bringing them in but then it’s just real football that keeps the fans coming back for more.”

Ford, daughter of city councillor Doug Ford and niece of Mayor Rob Ford, is from a family that lives for the gridiron and she’s aiming to suit up as linebacker for the Toronto Triumph.

In addition to the Hogtown expansion the LFL, heading into its third season since starting Sept. 4, 2009, includes 11 teams in U.S. markets: Baltimore, Cleveland, Orlando, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Green Bay, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Seattle.

During the first tryouts in April, Ford met Grieco and the two formed an instant bond over sport.

“I’d be talking, ‘Who’s that girl in the orange cleats?’ and she is so speedy,” Ford said.

Grieco, looking to take on the role of running back for the Triumph, trained with Ford after that, as the two hail from Etobicoke.

Grieco, a 20-year-old York University student, shares the same sentiment as Ford when it comes to the uniforms.

“For women, it’s a great jump even though we are wearing lingerie,” she said. “It just puts us out there as athletes (and) it’s about time we get noticed on what we can do for our talents.”

The first appearance of lingerie football came Feb. 1, 2004 during Super Bowl XXXVIII’s halftime show — the year Janet Jackson had her infamous wardrobe malfunction.

Supermodel Angie Everhart and Playboy centerfold Nikki Ziering quarterbacked their teams in a seven-on-seven gridiron battle that was based more in novelty than in sport.

Since then, commissioner Mitch Mortaza has altered the course, focusing more on athleticism, and creating an official league with 10 teams in 2009. The teams are coached by former gridders, including B.C. Lions alum Yo Murphy, who helms Tampa Breeze.

Taking a moment from his busy schedule in Las Vegas, Mortaza spoke over the lines about his league.

And he chuckles when he hears the phrase “cheesecake factor”.

“It’s just like in the U.S., prior to them knowing what the product was, in the sense of the league not the half-time show, we were definitely up against it,” he said.

He challenges sceptics to attend the home opener at Ricoh Coliseum, Sept. 17.

“If you’re just in it for the titillation, there’s a million other avenues nowadays for that,” he said. “Within the first two or three plays, if you talk to anybody in the stands, you literally forget what the women are wearing and they end up watching what amounts to a pretty good football game.”

Mortaza’s goal in Canada is to create a women’s call to the CFL.

“Toronto is going to be our first foray, but we are going to be launching a Canadian league next fall,” he said.

Six franchises will hit the indoor fields in 2012.

“The entire country, from what we’ve seen, is sports hungry and sports driven,” he said. “We feel in that type of culture something like this would play really well.”

It’s another reason why the league is drawing from the surrounding area to fill the roster, focusing on raw athletic talent.

Ford, a Richview CI alum who started its flag football program for girls, hopes her initiative will help inspire other girls to play.

“It gets me really feeling good inside,” she said.

Grieco’s tryout is purely for the competition — plus, she got her family’s approval.

“My dad was at work and one of his co-workers, who is female, saw the article in the paper,” she said. “My dad always talks about how I play sports so she showed my dad and my dad phoned me and said, ‘I know you’re not into the lingerie part but I know you’re really good at football so why don’t you go out?’”

Grieco was cut from the mini-camp because she was deemed to be too small but she was reinstated at a final open camp on June 12.

If that doesn’t come to fruition she’ll join York University’s rugby team in the fall.

And critics beware.

“They think it’s just a fun league where people just come out, watch and drink, but when the girls get on the field it is high impact,” Grieco said.

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