Jeff Pearlman

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The SI Swimsuit Issue, and my week with Molly Sims

Back when I was a young staffer at Sports Illustrated, one of the fruits of covering a long, winding baseball season was, when it ended, being asked to write for the annual Swimsuit Issue.

Of course, your average horndog teen (actually, horndog guy—any age) would say, “Wow! That’s awesome! You get to hang with the models!” Which, in and of itself, is true—you do get to hang with the models. But that’s not the draw. No, the draw is being able to go to some really sweet places and stay at some insanely lavish, expensive resorts. That’s exactly what I did in late 2002, when the magazine shipped me off to Meeker, Colorado for five days at the breathtaking Seven Lakes Lodge (Here’s the story).

Now, I could tell you all about fly fishing (awesome!), horseback riding (fantastic!), skeet shooting (oddly difficult!) and palate-awakening grub. But what everyone wants to know—what everyone always asked—was about my time with Sims, who later went on to star on the TV series, Las Vegas. Here’s what I remember …

A. During the photo shoots they placed these “chicken cutlets” in her bikini to make her breasts look bigger (standard practice).

B. I saw an exposed left breast for all of 4/10 of a second during a wardrobe mishap.

C. Molly was very friendly and engaging. Like, a genuinely good egg.

D. Molly had a nice boyfriend with her who looked like, well, me. Or you. Just a dude. Which was encouraging.

E. One of the locals approached the assistant photo editor, a lovely woman named Jenny, and said, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about—you’re the beautiful one here!” He then returned his front dental plate back to his mouth.

F. My wife was insanely jealous. Not about my blooming romance with Molly (“She can have you!”), but that I was staying in a $1,500-per-night haven.

G. Uh … that’s all.

Personally speaking, I’ve long loathed the Swimsuit Issue. I read Sports Illustrated for great writing—period. Great sports writing. Plus, models are weird looking. They really are. Long, angular, alien and 98 pounds. Molly happened to be quite pretty, but in that model-ish way that seems almost otherworldly.

And that’s what I have to say about that.

  • Jeff

    I accept the Swimsuit Issue for what it is, a relic of a bygone era.

    Before the time of the 24 hour sports-news cycle, February was a quiet month for sports fans and media. SI relied upon the strength of their unrivaled photography and created the highlight of the winter for a generation of boys and men who pulled stunning images of models in Auculpulco from snow-covered mailboxes in Akron.

    I suppose the Swimsuit Issue is irrelevant today, but eliminating it would be like dumping Santa Claus from the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      love that analogy, jeff. well said.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

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