Why I’m Not Offended By The ‘Objectification’ Of Model Katherine Webb

0109 webbOn Monday night, America watched a pretty dull championship football game between Notre Dame and the University of Alabama. We also apparently crowned a new queen. You see, the Alabama quarterback has a girlfriend who watched the game from the stands, and she is stunning. Katherine Webb is so stunning, in fact, that ESPN announcer Brent Musburger spent half the game gushing over her beauty, and she gained 90,000 Twitter followers over the course of the game. Now ESPN has issued a kind but totally unnecessary apology for his comments.

Musburger, 73, made no secret of his reaction to Webb’s striking beauty. “Now when you are a quarterback at Alabama, you see that lovely lady there, she does go to Auburn, I want to admit that, but she’s also Miss Alabama and that’s A.J. McCarron‘s girlfriend, okay,” he said at one point as the camera panned to Webb in the crowd. “Wow, I’m telling you, quarterbacks, you get all the good-lookin’ women. That’s a…what a beautiful woman! WHOA.” As the camera returned frequently to focus on Webb over the course of the blow-out first half, he kept going, egged on by fellow announcer Kirk Herbstreit.

Musburger’s attention did not go unnoticed. Yahoo! Sports columnist Jess Passan tweeted, “Sources: A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend to seek restraining order from Brent Musburger at halftime.” ESPN’s cameras didn’t pan to her at all in the second half, perhaps trying to tamp down his enthusiasm.

Today, ESPN VP of communications Mike Soltys took to Twitter to apologize: “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,” he wrote. “However, we apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that.”

Sorry, but I just cannot bring myself to feel like this merited an apology. Musburger’s enthusiasm was hardly leering or sexual in tone. He seemed, instead, simply struck by Webb’s beauty. I would feel differently if Webb were the one competing, and Musburger insisted on focusing only on her physical beauty. (If you want to be offended by the sexualization of female athletes, this is a good place to start.) But that’s not the case here: Webb is a model and a frequent pageant contender, and she was in the stands cheering on her quarterback boyfriend. There’s so much legitimate sexism in the sports world, do we really want to waste time getting up in arms over an old man marveling, “What a beautiful woman!”

As it happens, I actually watched the game, despite having zero interest in football. But my husband was watching, so I plopped down in front of the TV with him. (Note to self: Research whether it’s anti-feminist to be resolutely uninterested in football.) When the camera first panned to Webb, I said, “Wow, she is gorgeous.” So I guess I hereby issue a formal apology for that?

As for Webb, she agrees it’s all much ado about nothing. “I think the media has been really unfair to him.” Webb told the Today show this morning. “I think if he had said something along the line if we were hot or sexy, I think that would be  little bit different. The fact that he said we were beautiful and gorgeous, I don’t think any woman wouldn’t be flattered by that. I appreciate it, but at the same time I don’t think I needed an apology.” Katherine Webb isn’t just gorgeous, she’s sensible.

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    • Lastango

      “(Note to self: Research whether it’s anti-feminist to be resolutely uninterested in football.)”

      ==========

      I used to be a big fan, and now I no longer care. I don’t even know the names of the players anymore, or who won the Super Bowl last year. For me, that was a deliberate choice. I got tired of wasting time following and talking about “my” team, and having my emotions bounced around depending on whether “we” won or lost.

      But I don’t think less of the game; it’s a fascinating sport, with interesting strategy and some feats of athletics I’ll never forget seeing. For anyone wondering if it’s worth the effort to needed to develop a deep understanding of what’s happening on the field, I’d say forget about it. There’s more important things to do.