Today, men around the globe are rushing to newsstands to snap up the latest edition of Sports Illustrated. Lots of men. Even ones who don't shoot baskets, haven't seen a ballgame in years, and can't name any quarterback since Bart Starr.
So what's causing this sudden attraction to the wide world of sports? Well, it ain't knee pads. Nope. It's the Super Bowl of Bikinis. The World Series of Navels. The Ryder Cup of Wonder Bras. It's the long-legged, high-gloss spectacle of the annual Swimsuit Issue, and every year it depresses me.
Some women actually become angry over this particular publication, writing scathing letters to Time Inc. about this ultimate corruption of morals arriving through the U.S. mails. I don't quite understand that reaction. The models are beautiful and the photographs are exquisitely shot against breathtaking scenery. It simply depresses me because these are women I'll never look like, wearing swimsuits I could never fit into, and who have the ability to look graceful while draped over a rock with strings cutting into their bodies in uncomfortable places.
Now comes the news that one of the first manifestations of the proposed mega-merger between America Online and Time Warner was a clever stunt clearly designed to draw (popping) eyeballs. Last night, AOL members were given an advance peak at the SI Swimsuit Issue before its release to the general public today. Sports Illustrated, of course, is a Time Inc. publication, and this is what the analysts love to call "synergy."
In a continuation of this synergy, AOL hosted a live chat with the model who graces this year's cover. Furthermore, AOL plans to hold a series of chats throughout the year so its members can "interact" with all of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models.
Hmm... I wonder if they do their own typing.
It's an ingenious promotion by AOL and Time Warner. I've no doubt that by 8 p.m. last night, access to America Online was jammed, connections were lost, and the chat room was too full to enter. The morning talk shows are probably discussing it to death, and who knows what effect the titillating publicity will have on my poor, beleaguered AOL stock.
But here's what I really want to see: a picture of all those models sitting at their keyboards wearing sweats and bunny slippers while they type answers to Joe6Pack who asks, "Yo, babe, are those real?"