Jewish World Review Feb. 28, 2003 / 26 Adar I, 5763
America takes time out for swimsuits
You can tell it's almost spring.
SUVs are as useless as snow blowers again. Flocks of fundamentalist baseball fans are migrating South for spring training. And across the land, newsstands are festooned with bronze young girls posing and prancing in criminally skimpy swimsuits.
Spring, unfortunately, is also a cool time for America to go to war in the desert. Everyone but Saddam Hussein and 40 million Frenchmen seems to know that "change regime in Iraq" has been on President Bush's to-do list for March 2003 since the morning of Sept. 12, 2001.
Saddam still could choose exile or do the world a favor and throw a mass Kool-Aid party in Baghdad, a la Jonestown, but this week could be our last chance for a while to dwell on important domestic issues.
Let's start with them swimsuits - eh, boys? Although National Geographic recently got big laughs for joining the parade of shameless magazines who've put out swimsuit issues, Sports Illustrated, the magazine that founded the concept in 1964, is still the champ.
Although Vanity Fair's first 50 pages of fashion ads usually contain as much square feet of bare skin, male and female, and often are more revealing, SI's $6 stand-alone issue is the single most widely circulated magazine on Earth (50 million adult Americans alone reputedly will paw and skim its highly profitable - albeit increasingly silly and contrived - 242 pages).
Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated's regular weekly issue - the one containing actual sports - is full of the usual well-written stuff and only one blond Swede in a two-piece.
Michael Bamberger's "A Woman Among Men" is a sharp, clear-eyed profile of Annika Sorenstam, the world's best female golfer, who plans to play against the men of the PGA Tour in May at the Bank of America Colonial.
Sorenstam is pictured swinging a driver in an athletic "bikini," but not for salacious reasons. It's to show how she has bulked up in order to get the distance off the tee she'll need.
For itchy baseball fans, SI also offers "Hope Springs Eternal." It's written by Tom Verducci, who welcomes the start of spring training season with fine words and, considering the state of the once-great game he loves so blindly, way too much hope.
Whether you're praying for spring or waiting for war, there's plenty to read. The January Smithsonian is uncharacteristically rich, thanks in part to eight never-seen-before black-and-white photos from the Great Depression, including one of kids playing in a swimming pool in Pittsburgh in 1938.
And there's always Atlantic Monthly, America's best magazine still without an annual swimsuit issue. Its March issue includes a scary two-page glossary of politically incorrect words banned from our children's schoolbooks by the idiot language police - Founding Fathers (sexist), yacht (elitist) and Middle East (eurocentric) are a few that'll make rational people scream.
But only masochists might be able to endure reading Atlantic's cover package, a pair of overly long, counter-balancing articles about Bill Clinton's post-presidential career from Clinton-praiser James Fallows and Clinton-ridiculer P.J. O'Rourke.
O'Rourke wins on points, but his withering scrutiny of Clinton's serial bragging and truth-stretching on the lecture circuit should have been stopped by the ref after five pages.
At least there were no bathing suit photos.
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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald