Verner: Truth gets Musburger in trouble
Truth, students learn in journalism law class, is the only absolute defense against a claim of libel, slander or defamation.
Apparently, it’s no defense at all when an aging sportscaster goes all gushy over a fetching lass in the stands during a nationally broadcast title game and offends the tender sensibilities of political correctness and the sexism police.
For those who missed Monday night’s Alabama-Notre Dame yawnfest or switched channels early on — a smart move — I’m referring to the controversy that bubbled up over ESPN broadcaster Brent Musburger’s comments when the camera panned to the girlfriend of Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron.
The girlfriend, Katherine Webb, is a former Miss Alabama. Although I did not major in biology, I can state with some confidence that, as a species, Miss Alabamas are not known for having subdued plumage, even in their winter phase. The camera lingered ... and lingered. The visuals pretty much spoke for themselves. Ever the diligent professional, however, the 73-year-old Musburger offered incisive color commentary for the benefit of any puzzled viewers who perhaps thought Ms. Webb was receiving air time because she has a killer volleyball serve.
“Wow,” Musburger exclaimed, or something to that effect. “I’m telling you, quarterbacks — you get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman. Whoa!”
OK, maybe he laid it on a little thick. But after careful review of the evidence, including Ms. Webb’s critically acclaimed performance in the swimsuit competition, I think his original ruling stands: The wow-whoa did not constitute excessive celebration. It was not an illegal pass, forward or otherwise.
Besides, Notre Dame deserves some of the blame. It doesn’t make for riveting fare when a team’s marching band gains more yardage than the offense. Credit Musburger with trying to find a positive focus for an otherwise dreary evening.
Let the record show, then, that Musburger simply spoke the truth as to the “wow” factor.
Now, let’s move on to Musburger’s secondary assertion — that quarterbacks get all the good-looking women.
Let’s see — could it possibly be that quarterbacks do tend to rate higher on the beauty-queen magnet scale than, say, 310-pound nose guards? Hmmmm. Let’s roll the tape again.
• New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is married to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen (after breaking up with model Bridget Moynahan).
• Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is married to Candace Crawford, a former Miss Missouri, and he formerly dated Jessica Simpson.
• New York Jets quarterback (at last report) Mark Sanchez was linked romantically with model Kate Upton and actress Eva Longoria (a former Miss Corpus Christi, I’ll have you know).
• Back in his bachelor days (the pre-divorce ones), Hall of Famer Troy Aikman dated Sandra Bullock.
Lest you think this a recent phenomenon, back in the NFL’s pleistocene era, “Broadway Joe” Namath dated numerous celebrity beauties, including Raquel Welch, who in 1958 won the Fairest of the Fair beauty title at the San Diego County Fair. (I did not make that up.)
Like Alabama’s scoring drives, the list could go on and on. Musburger was simply stating the obvious. Blue-chip quarterbacks attract pretty girls the way newspaper guys attract mustard stains on their shirts.
Yet, despite the accuracy of his analysis, the fallout was tediously predictable. He was accused of venturing into the “creepy old man” zone, and ESPN quickly apologized, saying Musburger was out of line. From the outcry, you’d think the venerable broadcaster had done something truly egregious, like tweeting “Major babe alert @ section D, row 13 #randyoldgoat.”
To her credit, the former Miss Alabama herself was a good sport about the whole tempest in a soundbite, saying she found nothing offensive in Musburger’s appreciation for her many good qualities. “It’s been actually kind of fun,” she told the Associated Press.
Sounds like the beauty queen isn’t so full of herself that she has lost her sense of humor and perspective — traits often in short supply in our grim, contentious times. She’s willing to cut a grandfatherly old coot a little slack.
To which I would only add:
Chris Verner is editorial page editor of the Salisbury Post. His e-novel for children, “Stinkfever’s Fire,” is available on Amazon.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.