1980s vs. Today: SI swimsuit issue   

Updated: June 5, 2008, 12:45 PM ET

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The 1980s vs. Today
Was the sports world better back in the 1980s? Or are we better off today? Page 2 has the answers, specifically looking at …

Weinreb: Comparing/contrasting cheating in the '80s versus today

The ballpark experience
The sports media
The SI swimsuit issue
Sports video games
Superstar athletes
Fantasy games
Lakers vs. Celtics

A nation gawked. School librarians harrumphed. And me? I looked forward to the "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit issue the way Internet nerds eagerly await leaked Decepticon scale-model pics from the set of "Transformers 2." This was a big deal (largely because I was just hitting puberty). A really big deal (mostly because I would not interact with an actual real-life semi-naked woman for years to come). A mark-the-calendar, check-the-mail, sit-through-27-minutes-of-"Entertainment Tonight"-teases-until-they-finally-show-the-"making-of-the-issue"-clip big deal. (This changed dramatically when a buddy figured out the Playboy Channel descrambling trick.)

Pros: Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson, Paulina Porizkova. Oh, babes of yore! In my mind, you'll forever be frolicking on the beaches of Maui. Zowie!

Cons: Models wore genuine swimsuits -- semi-sensible one-piece suits, even! -- as opposed to bikinis made of South American coins and strategically-placed palm fronds. Also, too many (read: anything more than zero) annoying athlete profiles and game summaries. What is this supposed to be, a sports magazine?

Christie Brinkley

Warner Bros/Fotos International/Getty Images

Christie Brinkley was the star of many a swimsuit issue.

Bigger, splashier and waaaay more commercial (and yes, such a thing is possible), chock-full of celebrity guest-model photo shoots, ads made to look like photo shoots, and the occasional smidgen of Roger Clemens' chest hair.

Pros: Clichéd, unintentionally humorous outraged letters to the editor remain a staple (and ought to be compiled into a book); greater model ethnic diversity; smaller/nonexistent bikinis; tedious sports stories split off into separate issue; two words: body paint.

Cons: Utterly devoid of original ideas -- another all-sand bikini? Pushin' the envelope! -- for whatever that's worth; did we mention Clemens?

VERDICT: Viva the '80s. Maybe -- probably -- it's just gauzy nostalgia, but the old-school swimsuit issue felt like a genuine cultural event, whereas the current iteration feels … tired. Played out. Like a living fossil -- or perhaps a shambling cheesecake zombie, slouching toward irrelevance, propelled by past momentum and sheer advertising want-to. Blame Maxim magazine. Blame Maxim's 1,001 imitators. Blame Google search. In the here and now, the swimsuit issue is just another face in the scantily clad crowd. Did I grow up? Sure. But so did the world around me.

Patrick Hruby is a columnist for Page 2. Sound off to Patrick here.



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