Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

From the love of dogs to some thoughts now about Cupid and the world of sports. Here's commentator Frank Deford.

FRANK DEFORD: Gentlemen of a certain age might make a nostalgic note that today, Valentine's Eve, is the 80th birthday of Kim Novak. One of Miss Novak's most famous movie roles was in "Picnic," where she played the gorgeous ingenue who could've married the son of the richest man in town. But instead, fell for a hunk of a bum who was an old football star.

"Picnic" is being revived on Broadway, as is "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," where - guess what? Maggie, the beautiful Scarlett Johansson, is married to a hunk of a bum who is a former football star.

I bring this up, especially, because last month, Brent Musburger, doing play-by-play for ESPN, was pilloried for allegedly being sexist because he gushed about how Miss Alabama was going out with the Alabama quarterback.

Of course she is.

If Mr. Musburger was guilty of anything, it was failing to note what a cliché he was dealing in. As Tennessee Williams and William Inge, and scores of lesser writers have written, it is all so true: Beautiful women fall for athletes, especially football stars, most especially quarterbacks.

If football had been around in Shakespeare's time, the Bard would've had Juliet ditch Romeo for Flacco. Dare I say it? Flacco, Flacco, wherefore art thou Flacco?

Where have you been, critics of Brent Musburger? Going back before Jane Russell fell for Bob Waterfield, through Joe Namath and on past Tom Brady, pretty ladies have thrown themselves at field generals.

But we seem to have a new trend this Valentine's. More and more, athletes are falling in love with athletes. Why, Danica Patrick is actually going out with a competitor race driver, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The Number One golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, is canoodling with Caroline Wozniacki, who used to be the Number One tennis player.

Love seems to have worked better for the golfer. He went to the top of the rankings after the romance started, while Ms. Wozniacki nosedived. Give her a ring, Rory. After all, another top tennis player, Maria Kirilenko, recently became engaged to Alex Ovechkin, one of the best hockey players in the world, and Maria's been on a tear ever since Alex proposed.

And now comes the news that Tiger Woods - who rather famously or infamously prefers blondes - is at least good friends with Lindsey Vonn, the great skier. When she had a terrible accident on the Austrian slopes last week, the gallant Mr. Woods sent his private plane to fetch her - sort of the modern equivalent of Sir Walter Raleigh spreading his cape in the puddle for her majesty.

There've been a few all-athletic romances in the past - Ralph Kiner and Nancy Chaffee, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, Florence Griffin and Al Joyner - but perhaps, especially now that there are so many more female athletes, sports stars are connecting in the workplace just like everybody else.

However, even at Valentine's, quarterbacks still seem to prefer beauty queens and vice versa.

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WERTHEIMER: Commentator Frank Deford joins us every Wednesday.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford