No, the biggest star was Katherine Webb, the reigning Miss Alabama USA and McCarron’s girlfriend, who was spotted by an ESPN camera during the first quarter. When Webb appeared on the screen, ESPN announcer Brent Musburger began drooling.
“When you’re a quarterback at Alabama, you see that lovely lady there? She does go to Auburn, I’ll admit that, but she’s also Miss Alabama, and that’s A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend,” Musburger said. “Wow, I’m telling ya, you quarterbacks, you get all the good looking women. What a beautiful woman! Whoa! So if you’re a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with pops.”
Musburger’s reaction isn’t puzzling in the beer-wings-and-women culture of college football, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t troubling. There is a culture of domestic violence and sexual assault in football, and one need look no farther than the game Musburger was announcing to find evidence of it. At the NFL level, instances of domestic violence and sexual assault outpace the national average.
Painting Webb as merely a perk of the job, as nothing more than the Alabama beauty queen dating the quarterback of the Crimson Tide, only enables that culture. It’s a culture that views women as nothing more than chattel, a commodity to be won by the best player even if she isn’t a willing participant. It fosters a sense of entitlement to women and their bodies that only ingrains the rape and violence culture deeper into the game. Before the end of the game, for example, an NFL player had already tweeted his phone number to Webb’s account and offered to take her to a strip club.
That sense of entitlement contributes to, if it doesn’t cause, incidents like the Steubenville rape case, the murder of Kasandra Perkins, and the cover-up of a potential sexual assault on Notre Dame’s campus. It contributes to efforts to redefine rape, to block laws like the Violence Against Women Act, and to tell a raped woman that she should have shut that whole thing down. And it’s a sense of entitlement that is only encouraged every time we tell a young boy that enough practice passes in the backyard will get him his beauty queen.
ESPN spokesperson Mike Soltys apologized for Musburger on Twitter:
Have been asked on focus on @_KatherineWebb in BCS: 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.
It’d be nice, now, to hear from Musburger himself.