Making a play for players

An article about sports groupies and obsessed fans.
I found this acrticle rather interesting its sort of a long read.
tell me what you think ladies…

Chicago at the moment is swarming with millionaires – you can hear the sound
of platinum credit cards brushing against mahogany – and Sheila Dent is on
the prowl.
She emerges from a top-end hair salon, fingering the spun gold extensions
that have literally been sewn, like delicate embroidery, into her scalp.
They cost $3,000, and they are fine. The shoes are Manolos, 4-inch daggers
that cause her calves to twitch, the skirt is centimeters away from danger
and the silicone has been paid in full by a very famous baseball player who
is at this very moment napping in a hotel on the higher end of Michigan Ave.

“I could afford them myself,” Dent says of her new breasts. “But he owed me.
I’m ready to trade up.” In ballplayers, she means.

Dent is a trust-fund baby, college-educated, a self-advertised modern-day
Gloria Steinem. She travels in limousines, stays at the Four Seasons and
generously finances her girlfriends so they might accompany her on these
pleasure hunts. Debby Johnson, Dent’s best gal, is in major-league debt,
owing nearly six figures to the banks, but a girl’s got to support her
habit. She has taken goddess classes, developed a mean swing in the Chelsea
Pier batting cages, teaches fitness training and is so beautiful it is
frightening.

Her body is adorned with gifts from two big-time sports studs: diamonds in
her ears, and an emerald bracelet on her right ankle that skims a tattoo of
the number 49. Why 49? “It was his high school number,” she says. “He
changed it when he made it out of Double A.”

He is playing tonight across town in the All-Star game. His wife, parents
and three children will be in prime box seats, where the TV cameras can
capture their adorableness. Johnson and Dent have mapped out their own
seats, at the team’s hotel bar, where later, when the perfect family is
tucked away, there will be no danger of running into the missus.

They are predators, they are dreamers. They are two women in their early 30s
who met in a baseball chat room, kindred spirits discovering they shared a
single-minded pursuit.

Connoisseurs of sports and sex are hardly a new phenomena; the choreographed
bump-and-grind can be traced to Maximus’ bedsheets. Wilt Chamberlain and his
tales of 20,000 women pushed the dance into the public domain, and now we
barely go a minute without hearing about some athlete and his unchecked
zipper.

The modern sports groupie is both high-tech and old-fashioned, generally
abiding by ground rules not of their making. It’s a world where wives are
conditioned to look the other way, where adultery is condoned, where women
are taught that dating a powerful male athlete is a noble achievement.

Player culpability, an athlete’s responsibility, is often a lost art. Jeremy
Shockey, the Giants’ tight end, ratted out his married teammates when he
told Maxim magazine that some had girlfriends in other cities – a claim his
teammates were quick to shout down.

Dent plops herself onto a bar stool. Half a bottle of Shiraz later, the game
ends and there is a rustle in the Westin lobby. Dent thinks she has it all
figured out: She has turned men into sexual objects, into her little
trophies.

“Deb was the first one who didn’t judge me,” says Dent. “I offered to help
pay for some of her trips. We look out for each other ’cause it can be rough
out there, you know?”

The risk for both parties goes much deeper than getting caught. There are
communicable diseases, planned and unplanned pregnancies, consensual
encounters that turn violent, false accusations that become dowries. Lives
are ruined, zipper by zipper.

One blackmail scam in recent years involved a con man who hired attractive
women. They would meet baseball players in a bar, lure them to a hotel room
and slip them a drug that would render them unconscious.

“Then,” says an FBI agent who investigated the ring, and lectures players
about it during spring training, “she’d open the door for her
co-conspirator, they’d undress the player and take pictures of him in what
we call compromising positions with other men. The player wakes the next
day – other than a headache, he has no idea what happened.”

Until the manila folder arrives in the mail. One Yankee confirms details
offered by the FBI agent: Inside the folder are copies of the photos, and a
typed letter saying they will be distributed to gossip columns unless
$250,000 is sent to a certain bank account. “I think the guys pay the money
and pretend it never happened,” says the Yankee, who did not want to be
identified.

The NBA, a high-octane synergy of monied athletes and hip music, would be
the envy of Caligula, especially during All-Star week, when the host city is
awash in perfume and pheromones. Even lonely winters on the road offer
b-ballers afternoon delights, as Clippers forward Elton Brand discovered. He
checks in under aliases, but anonymity is an easy code to crack for those
with a purpose.

“I’m in my hotel room, relaxing, when this woman calls. She was like, ‘I see
you’re coming to my city in March. I want to make a date.’ Damn. I don’t
even know her, and she’s looking three months ahead for a hookup,” says
Brand.

There is another woman, he says, who has taken devotion to a higher, more
frightening level. She sends mountains of faxes and E-mails, detailing
intimate desires and threats. The authorities are involved, he says; maybe
she’ll just go away.

Steven Ortiz, assistant professor of sociology at Oregon State University,
has studied the culture of groupies and its primary enabler – male
entitlement.

“‘Groupie’ is a male term used to objectify, sexualize, subordinate or
stigmatize women in the hypermasculine world of male sports,” says Ortiz,
who has interviewed the wives of 48 professional athletes for a book he is
writing.

“Being with a celebrity provides entry to a world that is otherwise
off-limits,” says Ortiz. “There are some women who are so desperate to be a
part of these worlds that they will often allow themselves to be treated
like sex objects.”

Men who obsessively follow female athletes are generally referred to,
simply, as stalkers, and according to law enforcement officials, are far
more likely to be treated unkindly. Two WNBA players have restraining orders
against male fans. Female tennis players – including Serena Williams and
Martina Hingis – attract a fair share of psychotic Lotharios.

Meanwhile, the women get more daring in their pursuits.

Sitting in front of his locker at Shea, Cliff Floyd nods toward the floor,
where an ankle-high stack of correspondence remains unopened. “Pictures so
explicit, I don’t even want to tell you about them,” he says. “I get maybe
20 a month. Some guys might respond. They rationalize it, like she might be
a future wife. Sure. She might also be a stalker and drug you and do
whatever.”

He no longer tells his girlfriend about the, um, fan mail. “We both know the
trust level has to begin at 100%,” he says, “and that’s where I plan to keep
it.”

Some female fans have innocent infatuations, harmless hobbies. There are,
for instance, several women who have trailed Todd Zeile from team to team.
They share pictures on Web sites devoted to all things Todd and, during
batting practice, wave license plates proclaiming their love.

>From her home in California, Nikki, a self-proclaimed Zeilot, says she has
followed Todd since his days as a Dodger “because he is truly one of the
nicest people I’ve ever met. Todd does not disappoint the fans.”

The adoration is minuscule compared with the high heat aimed at some of
Zeile’s former Yankee teammates.

“The money, the exposure – there’s a strange dynamic surrounding
celebrities,” says Zeile, who recently signed with the Expos. “The more
unaccessible you become, the more aggressive people are in trying to get
near you. Especially this team. You can see they try to keep a safe distance
from the fans.”

It is a Sunday afternoon in Boston, Zeile is still a Yankee. The Bombers are
the first of any professional sports team to employ two ex-cops as full-time
security guards. On the road, the club has explicit deals with five-star
hotels in which rules for other guests are laid out, including no cameras in
the lobby.

“People check into our hotel assuming they have the right to have access to
the players,” says Jerry Levering, director of team security. “There are a
few of our very popular players who refuse to go out at night. We have the
standard pool of groupies – men and women – that follow us from city to
city. I recognize who they are and make sure they’re not a threat to the
players.”

The Yankee caravan is surrounded by an impenetrable ring of force, but there
are at least 300 fans blocking the sidewalks that circle the Ritz.

“You’d think the Beatles were in town,” says one Yankee. He does not know
it, but Ringo Starr, incognito in a baseball cap, has just walked through
the lobby, unrecognized. Outside, a pudgy man wearing a Jeter shirt tramples
two kids so he can pound on the team bus. A woman, her mascara running in
sticky rivulets, her yellow hot pants as sheer as gossamer, says she paid
$500 for a room the night before – not that it did any good.

“I even asked the room service waiter to help me out, but he refused,” says
the woman, who gives her name as Jill. “I had a list of guys I would have
settled for.”

As the bus pulls away from the curb, leaving crying, sweating, delirious
fans in its fumes, Jill leans against a pole and admits she has trained
diligently for this sort of moment. At the University of Maryland, where she
majored in finance, she was a Black-Eyed Susan – a name for the hostesses
who help the school recruit potential athletes. It’s very important,
explains Jill, to have life goals. “Guaranteed,” she says, “in five years
I’ll be married to a Yankee.”

By LISA OLSON

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