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The Chilly Comforts of Atheism

The Ever-evolving Mrs. Grundy

As you may know, the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!) won the national championship in football last night (Roll Tide!!). And you may have heard that one of the announcers for the game, Brent Musburger (who is by no means young), raised eyebrows with some remarks about Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron's girlfriend. If you've ever watched football games on TV, you know they often show brief shots of people in the crowd who are interesting in one way or another: because they're wearing a crazy costume, because they're pretty women, or because they're related to a player or coach. Well, this young lady met those last two criteria, and Musburger's comments about her looks were a tad over-enthusiastic: he told his broadcasting partner, a former quarterback, that "you quarterbacks get all the good-looking women" and suggested that "If you’re a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with Pop." So you can have a girlfriend that beautiful. 

I was mildly startled by the remarks, and thought he was overdoing it a bit; I would say it was "inappropriate" if that word simply meant what it says, and didn't now have such prune-faced connotations. And then the camera went back to the game and I forgot about it.

But this morning I discovered that it's a fairly big news story, with people joining in a great chorus of huffiness, including the usual feminists who seem to think they can, just by demanding that it be so, turn the world into a place where the star athlete and the beauty queen don't naturally end up with each other and attract the admiration and envy of everyone else. Here's a good example from the New York Times. This bit is something of a classic:

"It’s extraordinarily inappropriate to focus on an individual’s looks," said Sue Carter, a professor of journalism at Michigan State. "In this instance, the appearance of the quarterback’s girlfriend had no bearing on the outcome of the game. It’s a major personal violation, and it’s so retrograde that it’s embarrassing. I think there’s a generational issue, but it’s incumbent on people practicing in these eras to keep up and this is not a norm."

Two things really strike me about this: the puritanism and the incipient totalitarianism. It really does seem sometimes that there is a certain constant proportion of puritanism in the American character, and that it never goes away, but just expresses itself in different forms. What is political correctness but puritanism seeking to induce a sense of shame about unwelcome thoughts of a socio-political nature? 

And as for the totalitarianism: that's what's required if you want to control human nature itself to the extent that this professor wishes. When people like her say "inappropriate" there's a ferocity about it, as if they're frustrated that they can't report you to the police. And I don't doubt that if they ruled the world there would be police for such matters.  There would certainly be very strict rules about allowing the camera to rest on the face of a pretty girl during the broadcast of a football game. Well, come to that, football itself probably wouldn't be allowed.

"...the appearance of the quarterback's girlfriend had no bearing on the outcome of the game" is really rather funny. And by the way, isn't it inappropriate for the professor to suggest that Musburger's age is somehow a defect, causing him to be insensitive and retrograde? Call the cops!


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Pretty funny really.

Yet another reason to hate puritanism.

including the usual feminists who seem to think they can, just by demanding that it be so, turn the world into a place where the star athlete and the beauty queen don't naturally end up with each other and attract the admiration and envy of everyone else

Yes. Such feminists are very amusing/stupid.

What gets me about people of this ilk ;-) is that they seem to want to create a completely joyless society.


I don't have a TV, and anyhow it was on some odd network, so I couldn't get it on the computer. So I watched the game on the Bleacher Report, ie, I just followed the score. One of my students made an angry comment on FB about the commentator's remark about the girl friend. Others were saying that the only interesting thing about the game was hoping for another shot at the girlfriend. So my curiosity was piqued and I put McC. into google images. All I needed was those three letters and it sent me to images of 'MccCaron's girlfriend'. In most of these pictures, the girl friend is wearing a swimming cosume. She is a beauty queen. That's what you wear for the job, if you're a beauty queen. OK. But It's absurd to object to remarks about the looks of someone whose day job involves wearing a bikini so tha people can get a good look at your body. It's not like the commentator was remarking on the looks of a professor or PhD student! We don't wear a bikini for a living. Her job is *about* her having a very beautiful face and body. That's her public persona.

I'd add that the beauty queen is *literally* remarkably beautiful.

I was thinking that she was probably not too upset with the publicity.


Very funny stuff. My congratulations to the Alabama team on their victory.

And my congratulations, too, to the quarterback for having such a beautiful girlfriend.

Thanks. And my sympathies, Grumpy, on your loss. Obviously somewhat limited sympathy, I know, since y'all's loss was our gain. Really, I did feel a little sorry for the ND players. I don't think anybody expected them to be completely dominated like that. Brian Kelly's remark after the first half was very funny. In one of those brief post-half interviews as the teams are leaving the field, the tv gal asked him something like "What needs to happen if your team is going to come back from behind in the second half?"

He sort of laughed and said "Well, I don't know--maybe if Alabama doesn't come back out..."

More about Mrs G later--very busy.

It is indeed the case that the young lady does not mind the publicity.


I think the source of Prof. Carter's complaint can be viewed here.

“It was kind of nice,” she said. “I didn’t look at it as creepy at all. For a woman to be called beautiful, I don’t see how that’s an issue.”

You know, if somebody had said she was intelligent, nobody would have objected, and since beauty and intelligence are both gifts that we receive freely from either, a) our Maker, or b) impersonal forces of nature, I don't see why it's okay to comment on one and not the other.


But it's noottttt faaaiiirrrrrr...

And of course it isn't, but it's cosmically unfair, not culturally. If the Grundys have any kind of valid point, it's that it's unkind to the less gifted to have our faces rubbed in the unfairness, or for us to be treated less favorably because we aren't so attractive/smart/etc. But to try to assert that the human preference for beauty, strength, etc. is some kind of social construct, or capitalist ploy, is just...well, you just don't get very fair trying to crush nature that way.

"Her job is *about* her having a very beautiful face and body. That's her public persona."

Right. The whole point of beauty contests is to get attention and rewards for your looks. So of course she's not unhappy when she gets them. (Though of course she reserves the right to complain if they come from some unwelcome quarter.)

Interesting glimpse, Art. "ordained priest"? I suppose that would be Episcopal.

I think Carter just hates the young lady because C teaches at Michigan State and the young lady is dating an Alabama player.


I've recently observed that Musburger seems to broadcast with at least two sheets to the wind.

As for the lady in question, she has very nice hair.

Hmm, I hadn't thought of Musburger being tipsy. That would explain the slight over-the-top-ness of his remarks.

Speaking of Ms. Carter: one wonders how and why she was chosen to be selected to voice her very important opinion on this topic. It's the NYT, and she's a journalism professor at Michigan State. I think this is an example of how a fairly small number of progressives manage to appear as far more representative of general opinion than they really are.

Well, to be fair, people did notice the comment, and were annoyed by it, like my student who objected on FB. And as Robert Gotcher says, 'play for Alabama if you want to date a beautiful woman' is the kind of thing one has to be slightly drunk to say in public.

Like we said, those women who irritated by the comment were not being very rational. They were imagining the comments in terms of a hypothetical situation in which a woman is being judged on her looks, not her personality or opinions. They got confused by that moral principle, and forgot that, in this concrete situation, the woman is a Beauty Queen, who likes being judged on her looks, because looking good is her game (to paraphrase ZZ Top.

It was definitely boorish, but the reaction has been disproportionate. Now the ritual is approaching its final moments, as Musburger and ESPN have apologized and Miss Webb's mother has talked about how the Miss USA pageant improved her daughter's self-esteem, and how active she is in her church, notwithstanding the fact that she habitually appears in public in what would have been considered inadequate underwear a couple of generations ago. What a country....

If she were an expert on Aristotle trying to deliver a lecture on Aristotle and people wouldn't take her seriously because of her looks, it would be different, but she's a pretty girl, the quarterback's girlfriend and of interest on the latter account as well as the former. Nobody was suggesting that she's an idiot or anything else that was at all negative.

I mean, it's just a fact of life that attractive people get favors and attention. It's not just good-looking women getting the male attention, it's also good-looking men getting the female attention. Star athletes get praise and attention which I might think more suitably paid to my blog, but that's life. Star athletes do get the good-looking women. And good-looking women get the star athletes. Like that kid in the opening scene of The Wire says, life just be that way sometimes.

I meant to say yesterday, btw, that Janet's comment about creating a joyless society is right on.

Wow, what pomposity (among other things). I can't believe she literally said people should "keep up." If the Republican party really did declare a "War on Women", and if it were this sort of woman, I would be the first to sign up. (a non-violent war, of course, not advocating violence.)

I saw the Musburger moment during the game, my brother and I laughed and commented on it. It was definitely a tad uncomfortable...but speaking for myself, I'm in no way immune to this sort of thing, when in the presence of a beautiful woman. I usually tend to hide my enthusiasm pretty well, but inside I'm often a bumbling idiot.

I wonder if people like this professor are truly immune to the effects of physical beauty, as they often pretend to be, implicitly or otherwise. If they are, and if they're not a holy person who has transcended it in some form, then there's something dead inside of them.

I think a holy person would say, "What a beautiful girl," and "Poor silly man, I think I'll say a prayer for him."


Interestingly, that was my reaction. :-)

I don't think Prof. Carter was immune at all--she's resentful of the young beauty, and of the men who are so susceptible to it. And really, I can understand that to a degree. But it's the kind of feeling one ought to suppress, not indulge.

"...but inside I'm often a bumbling idiot." Heh. I'm afraid that's a nearly universal male experience. It's absurd but it's there. I remember a guy I worked with in a computer center back in the '70s (when there were still computer centers) saying of a very attractive graduate student with whom we dealt in our capacity as computer operators (when there were still computer operators): "She's so good-looking she makes you nervous."

I suppose there are equivalent things on the female side. My father always said my mother voted for Kennedy because he was good-looking. And many women swoon over Clinton (Bill) and Obama.

"She's so good-looking she makes you nervous."

Exactly. I was just saying that last night actually of a girl at my work. "Intimidating" was the specific word I used, but I meant the same thing.

They have a (minor) superpower. You just hope they use it for good rather than evil. ;-)

heh. I suppose someone has analyzed the physiology of it. But although you could measure the effect on the male side--heart rate, chemical levels etc--I don't know how you could measure the cause. I was about to say it's all received through the eyes, but that's not true--looking at a picture doesn't produce that reaction.

One of my MA students was once a very pretty mature student from Korea. I got quite tongue-tied when supervising her thesis. In the end I avoided meeting her and gave her detailed feedback by email, so she wouldn't think she was wasting her fees on being tutored by an idiot.

A wise move. Apart from your not wanting to look like an idiot, there are some obvious sound reasons for avoiding that kind of situation.

There's been a case in the news here recently in which a doctor or dentist dismissed an assistant because he found her very attractive and was afraid his emotions would get out of hand. Of course she sued him. And I can understand her being pretty angry, especially if she couldn't easily find another job. But I can see why he did it.

One of the things I've told men (seminarians, men about to be married, etc.) is "Look, you are going to find that that are some women you would do well not to spend a lot of time around, esp. unaccompanied."

I know it is true for me.

Very good advice. At the least they'll have the thought in their heads and maybe will remember it if they start feeling some kind of attraction. I think people (both sexes) are often unaware of the danger, for instance in the workplace.

Interestingly, that doesn't surprise me.


A lot of people are unaware, and a lot are in denial. They refuse to acknowledge the danger, and hence to take any steps to reduce it.

And yet at the same time unmarried people treat that situation quite openly as a hunting ground, which ought to be a clue to the married. Officially there is no danger, as we're treating it here: officially we're all genderless functional units. Unofficially, especially in a workplace full of young unmarried people, there's a whole mating subculture operating, extensively discussed and analyzed by journalists and researchers.

With regard to Musberger, my husband reminded me that the guy was under pressure to say something, anything, to keep people from turning off what was obviously a foregone conclusion.

I said I thought part of the problem is that it's creepy for a 70-year-old to dwell on the prettiness of a girl a third his age. My teenage daughters said he crossed the line the third time he mentioned it.

There you go, Maclin, you've got about 5 more years.


I'm not sure creepy is an on-off condition, Janet. I may be getting there already.

He's only as old as he feels, I guess. (a saying I only dislike more as I get older.) Unfortunately those who are not actually old don't generally see it the same way.

As for the three times, I guess it's one thing to notice, another to ogle. ("ogle" is a funny word.)

re: "it's one thing to notice, another to ogle"
Exactly. A lot of the Mrs. Grundyism comes from not making that distinction, so that on the one hand we don't officially notice, and on the other hand we treat noticing as equivalent to ogling. ("ogling" is even funnier than "ogle." It sounds like a nickname for a baby caveman. Ogle at least is the name of a former governor.)

And "Oglethorpe"...where do these names come from? The mother country, I guess.

In further developments: http://www.usatoday.com/story/gameon/2013/01/11/white-house-petition-katherine-webb-aj-mccarron-brent-musburger/1826891/

And this, in which Miss Webb sees the hand of God in bringing her to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue:


I really don't mean to be harsh on the lassie (as Louise might call her--such a great word). She's probably quite sincere and very sweet. But it just boggles my mind that she would fail to see the inconsistency between being a Christian and playing sex bomb in SI.

I sometimes think wild-eyed feminists like Ms. Carter are just so darn angry about the unfairness of it all that they would almost welcome their own and everyone else's oblivion in pursuit of achieving their idea of perfection.

They sort of put me in mind of the Slim Pickens character in Dr. Strangelove who whoops it up as he rides the bomb down on its way to the target zone.

At least he was having fun of a sort, which she doesn't appear to be.

Something else I meant to remark on about her complaint: the term "retrograde." How Soviet. Complaints that something is "outdated" or "obsolete" or "retrograde" are always an indication to me that one should be suspicious of the complaint.

Also, I think The Retrograde Elements would be a good name for a band.

Yes -- that does have a Soviet ring to it!

And how appropriate that Ms. Carter "led the first all-women ski expedition to the North Pole from the Russian side of the Earth."

At that link, you'll also learn that she's an ordained Episcopal priest.

My day is now officially made. ;-)

And "Oglethorpe"...where do these names come from?
Maybe there was once a Miss Thorpe who was as pretty as Miss Webb.

heh. "Oglewebb" is certainly no more clunky a name than "Musburger."

Talk about disproportionate, I think the amount of conversation in this blog on this subject might be more than anywhere else! :-) If the game had been close, there would have been no comment; it was made in the name of boredom, not lust.

Yes, but you see, we are mostly not talking about what everybody else is talking about. We are talking about that article, and probably NOBODY else is talking about that.


Right, the post itself and most of the discussion are about some of the P.C. cops, rather than about Musburger's silly comments.

Something else I meant to remark on about her complaint: the term "retrograde." How Soviet.

Good point.

And I normally tune out when I hear/read remarks about things being "outdated" etc.

"retrograde" is like "reactionary": not something I want to be until I hear somebody disparaging it.

I don't really mind "retrograde" at all, because its whole usage implies that Now is better than Then, which is quite frequently not the case. "Reactionary" is different. No one wants to be merely reactionary, I guess.

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