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Work of Art - Did Musburger go too far?

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By Art Trujillo

Men need to be extra careful in how they regard women, even when the woman being described got where she was by being, well, attractive.

Let me explain:

The recent Bowl Championship game between the universities of Alabama and Notre Dame flopped. As it had been decades since the Fighting Irish had risen to No. 1, I thought — finally — this is their year. The trouble is, Notre Dame never showed up.

Even the presence of stellar linebacker, Manti Te’o, a 6-2, 255-pound senior for the Irish, was virtually unnoticed. Let’s not forget that he was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

The then-No. 1 college team in the nation rolled over and played dead just a few minutes into the game. A sportscaster later might have asked the Fighting Irish coach,
“When did you first realize your team was in trouble?” His reply could have been: “Immediately after the National Anthem.”

The one-sided game gave long-time sportscaster Brent Musburger both time and opportunity to praise the pulchritude of a woman named Katherine Webb, who happens to be the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. As network camera operators are wont to do, they let their wandering lenses scan the crowds. And of course, they know ahead of time which celebrity is going to be sitting where.

Webb was last year’s Miss Alabama. So, when the cameras began scanning the fans in the stands, the long-time sports commentator, Musburger, extolled Miss Webb’s assets.

“You see that lovely lady there, she does go to Auburn, but she’s also Miss Alabama and that’s A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend,” he said. Then he added, “You quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman. Wow.”

Is there anyone on the planet who would disagree? Is there anyone who would fail to believe that the luck of the Irish that day fell instead on the Crimson Tide, specifically their quarterback? And those extended views of the beauty queen became viral, appearing in newspapers and magazines the next day.

Well, the sports network, ESPN, said Musburger went too far, and has since apologized. But to be sure, simultaneously, the media have run countless images of Webb, some full-figure views of her in a bathing suit. And unless we’re extremely naive, Katherine won the Miss Alabama title by, among other things, strutting her stuff. “Lovely,” “good-looking” and “beautiful” don’t even come close to giving Musburger’s comments a lascivious tone, but the network apologized nevertheless.

It’s apparently politically incorrect for men to praise her, on national television. There’s been fallout on both sides of the issue. A day after ESPN apologized for the 73-year-old Musburger’s “going too far,” both Katherine and boyfriend McCarron said the Alabama title holder didn’t think the gesture was even necessary.

Katherine Webb said, on the Today show, with Matt Lauer, “I think the media has been really unfair to (Musburger). I think if he had said something along the line of we were hot or sexy, I think that would be a little bit different.”

Even Webb’s father, Alan Webb, doesn’t see Musburger as having gone too far. The father said, in part, “On one hand, you can look at it as being kind of like the dirty old man, but I’m used to this and I think if you really look into what that he was trying to say, he was trying to be complimentary, and I think they need to give Brent a break.”

But yet, many take umbrage that Musburger said anything at all.

On countless blogs and Twitters, people have lined up on both sides of the issue, some claiming it was unfair to isolate Miss Alabama on national TV while Musburger spoke of her attributes, without her knowledge.

Another person said that given the size and number of monitors throughout Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, it would be impossible for anyone being spotlighted not to know instantly that it was being done. Those monitors generally show whatever the TV audience is seeing.

Conceding that Musburger “went too far,” a statement from ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys reads in part: “We always try to capture interesting storylines and the relationship between an Auburn grad who is Miss Alabama and the current Alabama quarterback certainly met that test. ... However, we apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that.”

And if you seek more understanding of this issue, get online, do the research. There are passionate opinions for all sides.

• • •

In the ‘50s, life was simple: If you wish to attend a college bowl game, the choices are among the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Sugar Bowl.

Today, there’s a bowl game for every occasion, preference or geographic area. And many have sponsors: Tostitos, Meineke, FedEx, Sunkist, Alamo, Capital One, Chick-fil-a, Little Caesar’s Pizza and GoDaddy.com.

It’s great that these sponsors — and there are many others — agree to help underwrite grid expenses, but do any of those big bucks filter down to the fans?

Apparently not. One online source listed individual ticket prices as around $850 for the worst seat in the nosebleed section of the Alabama-Notre Dame playoff. Any seat in the lower level went for about $1,700.

That doesn’t make it seem as if fans are being accorded any great honor. Yet, when newspapers and other media refer to particular bowl games, the sponsors receive lots of free publicity. Not a bad deal for a sponsor. Can anyone answer how much a ticket to a major bowl game would cost if there were no sponsors?

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 234, art@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.