Are fans starting to take Lingerie Football seriously?
Despite calling the Chicago Bliss one of the Lingerie Football League's successes in its first season, its future at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates remains up in the air as the team hosts its second home game Friday.
"To say it's been a smooth ride would be stretching it," said LFL Chairman and Founder Mitchell Mortaza.
The uncertainty with the Sears Centre ownership and possibility of a temporary closure forced the Bliss to look for alternative game sites. But once that was resolved the team enjoyed a successful season opener on Sept. 4.
Even former Bears coach Mike Ditka attended to watch the 7-players-a-side indoor tackle football action.
"Chicago was awesome. The Sears Centre almost ran of beer," team Captain Danielle Moinet said.
The Bliss, now 2-0, play the final of their two scheduled home games Friday against the 2-1 Philadelphia Passion in a battle for first place in the LFL's Eastern Conference - so it's a rare December football game for Chicago fans with playoff implications.
Four teams qualify for the playoffs, and the league will have two rounds in February in Miami, concluding with the Lingerie Bowl championship game. It will be available on pay-per-view on Super Bowl Sunday.
The LFL has 10 teams with four games per team. Some games have been canceled, including a November Bliss match against the New York Majesty. Officials said there were problems with the Majesty's facility.
There are plans for more games and expansion teams next season. Expect the swimsuit-like uniforms to remains the same, though, despite Moinet's complaints that players have suffered bruises and even a couple of concussions. A little padding may have helped.
"No one really understands how hard we hit," she said.
Mortaza calls the uniforms a "great, sexy look" which provide more cover-up than what women's beach volleyball players wear.
Players have pounded the pavement making promotional appearances and interacting with fans to build up interest and the brand name. Mortaza said the Bliss are poised to become "part of the fabric in Chicago."
"I think the fans are taking us a little more seriously," Moinet said.
Mortaza wouldn't comment on how many tickets were sold for the first game on Sept. 4, but it reportedly topped 3,000. He did say the team had already eclipsed the first game's ticket sales.
Some family groups protested the first game, given the scantily-clad women playing. Mortaza said the dissenters have decreased since they've seen that the players run, tackle hard and compete.
"That's to be expected. Anyone, including myself, would have a knee-jerk reaction when it comes lingerie football," Mortaza said.
There is one thing that has increased the course of the season: marriage proposals from swooning fans.
"I can never tell if people are being serious or not," she said. "I just laugh it off as a joke."
Tickets to the 9 p.m. game on Friday are available at searscentre.com.
Beyond that, the team has not committed to staying at the Sears Centre, which just this week was formally taken over by the village of Hoffman Estates.