Of all the doors of economic opportunity open to star athletes, the girlie-magazine market must be the most curious.
Former University of Arizona swimming sensation Amanda Beard has advanced the debate – I’m not sure in which direction – about women’s place in sports by dropping her Speedo for the cover spread in Playboy.
She may have banked a million bucks, or whatever the flesh journal is paying these days to its marquee strippers.
But assuming, long term, that her career is not in nudie magazines, was it worth it?
Does it matter that Amanda may have disappointed a worshipping sports public by baring her behind and other parts?
A lot of parents must be shaking their heads in the negative example she has set for a few million kiddies.
As a seven-time Olympic medalist, swimming to glory at the Summer Games of 1996, 2000 and 2004, and with plans to compete next year in Beijing, Amanda became the idol for little girls all over the country.
She showed them what can be achieved by combining talent, hard work and dedication.
But what is she showing them, beyond the obvious, by cavorting in her birthday suit for Playboy?
In the 2004 Olympics, Beard won the gold in the 200 meter breaststroke, and the silver in the 200 meter individual medley and 400 meter medley relay.
In 2000 she won the bronze in the 200 meter breaststroke.
Back in 1996, a mere 14 years old, she was the darling of the Atlanta Olympics where she picked up a gold medal in the 400 meter medley relay and won the silver in the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke.
At the University of Arizona, Beard was the NCAA champion in 2001 in the 200 meter breaststroke.
Maybe we should be careful about judging too quickly.
Maybe social rules on things such as modesty no longer apply to emancipated female superstar-athletes.
Old-fashioned ideas about athletes as wholesome, all-American girls and boys-next-door may no longer apply.
Winning the hearts of sports fans perhaps no longer carries with it any responsibility to live up to a certain moral image.
In which case, it wouldn’t matter if a beautiful athletic queen took on the role of come-hither seductress for some slick skin-magazine.
Propriety changes its roles constantly.
This isn’t the 1930s and Amanda isn’t Sally Rand or Gypsy Rose Lee, a couple of strippers who were looked down up by pillars of a different society.
Besides, male athletes have traditionally had the opportunity to step off the playing field or court, or climb out of the pool into lucrative paydays in movies, business, politics and such.
Maybe Amanda can charm her way off the pages of Playboy into greater success as a model and eventually onto the silver screen, where her experience at peeling off her clothes would come in handy. Who knows?
And who cares if people lose respect for Amanda the athlete?
Sometime back, reviewing her athletic career, she said, “I’ve received so many opportunities because of swimming – opportunities that a lot of people don’t get. I feel so blessed to have been able to experience what I’ve experienced.
“It’s been a wonderful life, and in a lot of ways, I think the best is yet to come.”
I agree. Amanda is a charming, intelligent and beautiful young lady and surely the best of her life is yet to come.
But as charming, intelligent and beautiful as she is, she wouldn’t have gotten a second glance – let alone a first-team cover spread from Playboy – had she not first made a name for herself in sports.
Her appearance on the pages of a publication that glorifies lust trivializes the incredible effort and hard work this young lady has put in to become one of the world’s best athletes.
So, OK. It’s her life.
But it’s the public’s respect for Amanda that will determine her future success.
Retired columnist Corky Simpson writes every Saturday for the Citizen.