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Worst of '98: pro football

This is one of those 2 a.m. brainstorms that should be written off as an unfortunate side effect of a bad midnight snack and quickly forgotten. Promoting it should be out of the question.

Apparently, though, Carter Turner couldn't help himself:

MINNEAPOLIS _ Tryouts for the Minnesota Vixens and the Lake Michigan Minx were held Dec. 17 at the Metrodome. The teams will launch a Midwest exhibition run for the Women's Professional Football League in 1999.

Yes, women's pro football. Never mind that only a tiny fraction of women play football in youth leagues or high school, and most are kickers.

Never mind that those who do play probably wouldn't appreciate being called "Minx" or "Vixens."

Never mind that, almost without exception, even the most athletic women don't know how to play football.

Turner, the CEO of the WPFL, doesn't seem to mind. He announced his intentions last month of forming a full-contact league.

"We're taking 60 of the best athletes in the country and going on a tour," Turner said. "We will test the markets _ see if there's good public acceptance."

Even though the American Basketball League recently folded, women's pro soccer can't get started and women's pro softball is struggling, Turner apparently thinks football may catch on.

A similar venture was attempted in the 1970s and '80s, when five women's teams were formed in Michigan and Ohio.

"The fan base just wasn't there yet," Turner said.

Memo to Carter: It isn't there now.

For all these reasons, the Minx and the Vixens earn the distinction as the worst of women in sports in 1998. Joining them on the thumbs-down list:

The ABL, which closed shop in Demember because it no longer could pay the bills. Poor attendance and exposure killed the league; it will be interesting to see how the much-hyped WNBA fares. If the NBA season is canceled, will the league powers-that-be be more likely to lose patience with their women's auxiliary if it can't make money?

The Connecticut basketball team. The Huskies are No. 1 but hit bottom with two stunts last year: the "gift basket" to injured Nykesha Sales that allowed her to set the UConn career scoring record, and Sunday's 117-20 victory over Quinnipiac. So maybe Geno Auriemma did put his subs in, and maybe he did stop pressing early in the first half, but why schedule Quinnipiac?

Olympic gold-medal swimmer Michelle Smith, who protested too much _ then was found to have tampered with a urine sample during a random drug test.

There was much to cheer about in 1998, though. Leading this list is tennis player Lindsay Davenport, a delightful person who won the U.S. Open and snared the world No. 1 ranking. The California native is relentlessly pleasant, intelligent and as down-to-earth as a former tennis prodigy can be. She's also among the most quotable on the women's tour; alas, she isn't flashy, so she doesn't get as much ink as Martina Hingis, the Williams sisters or Anna Kournikova.

Also among the best of last year were two figure skaters, Tara Lipinski for coming through when it counted most and Michelle Kwan for making finishing second seem so satisfying, when everyone knew it wasn't; sprinter Marion Jones for showing us glimpses of what she can become; the U.S. Olympic hockey team for making history and having such a great time doing it; and Tennessee's Pat Summitt and Chamique Holdsclaw for the dazzling way they've become one of the most dominant duos in the history of women's sports.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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