He signed up for NBC's reality boxing show The Contender, but Joey (the Greek God) Gilbert's experience ended up being more like something out of The Bachelor. During the May 24 series finale in Las Vegas, Gilbert, a 165-pounder who was eliminated in the quarterfinals, was introduced by his trainer to former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Bonnie-Jill Laflin (left), a TV sports correspondent for KCAL in Los Angeles and the cohost of ESPN2's SpeedWorld. Now, says Laflin, 29, "things are moving really fast." (Read: She took Gilbert, 29, home to L.A. to meet the parents.) Says her smitten slugger (right), "[Executive producer] Sly Stallone told me great things would flow from The Contender--and Bonnie-Jill fits that description completely."
? The nominations for the ESPY Awards haven't been announced yet, but the host already has a prediction: Roger Federer is a lock for Best Men's Tennis Player. "He's made a pretty remarkable run," says former Friends star Matthew Perry, who'll emcee the July 17 broadcast. "He's a sick player." ( Perry knows a thing or two about tennis. He was once a highly ranked Canadian junior player.) Ron Howard will also star, in a series of comic interludes that he directed. The bits were filmed before a June 2 Diamondbacks-Mets game in New York City; in one, Howard, playing a director of baseball broadcasts, goads Tom Glavine into bashing a watercooler.
? Whom were you expecting? Paul Tagliabue? The job of Lingerie Football League commissioner has been given to Dennis Rodman. The commish's promise: to boost ratings for the three-year-old league, which pits four teams in a single-elimination tournament. "First, I want to work on those end zone dances," he says. "I want to put stripper poles in the end zone and teach every player how to dance on one." But life's not all panties and playbooks for the new boss. Rodman just wrapped his first film in five years, a comedy called Coming Attractions in which he plays the father of a rebellious teenage girl, and he's developing a sports talk television show with Terrell Owens.
? The Cincinnati Reds thought they'd concocted the perfect welcome home for visiting Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella: a bobblehead doll. But when Piniella saw a sketch of the item--the ex-Reds skipper in mid-tantrum, throwing a base--he nixed the proposal. (The team instead handed out dolls of outfielder Wily Mo Pena for the June 8 game.) "We would never disrespect someone by making a bobblehead of them if they didn't want it," says team p.r. man Rob Butcher. "But, honestly, we've never had anyone turn one down."