I’m no expert when it comes to beauty pageants, so I might have this wrong. But it appears that the title of "Miss Alabama" – and perhaps those of the supreme unmarried females of other states – is conferred in secret upon unwitting young women, without their knowledge, participation or consent. I think this stealthy distinction must be awarded entirely on grounds of intellect . . . or perhaps the ability to weld different metals . . . or maybe to lift very heavy things . . . or randomly. Honestly, I don’t know. But, whatever the standards, this honor is meant to be a very private one and is clearly not bestowed with any regard whatsoever to the recipient's physical appearance.
As I said, I’m no expert. I know even less about Miss Alabama and how she got to be that way than I know about how Justin Bieber got to be Justin Bieber. But I’m able to conclude all the foregoing based on something I learned this week: pointing out the presence of Ms. Alabama at a University of Alabama football game, and then commenting that she is “lovely,” is an unspeakable invasion of her privacy and a profound affront to her dignity. If you can bear to watch so gross a violation of decent, there is video evidence of Brent Musberger's heinous assault. Be warned, though. It's pretty awful.
Now do not be fooled by the fact that the young woman in question claims not only not to have taken offense, but to have been both flattered and thrilled by the attention, from which she plans to profit. Clearly the young woman is suffering from some kind of post traumatic disruption of her faculties.* Those who know better than she what is good for her wasted no time in taking up her cause and defending her – whether she wished them to or not.
Perhaps the most fearless guardian of good was the one who pointed out that the offending sportscaster’s comment was not only “creepy,” but – gasp – heteronormative. I didn't know Mrs. Grundy had gone back to school for a post-graduate degree in gender liberation studies, but I, for one, am glad she did.
But even in so noble a cause as the crusade to protect beauty queens from public outrage, there must be limits. I understand that the offenderati have to keep their outrage at a simmer all the time, so they’re ready to boil over whenever there’s a buck to be made doing so.** I get that those championing Brent Musberger's public flogging, and debating whether the ESPN apology was sufficiently abject, just aren't wired in a way that would let them consider how their own age bias plays into their descriptions of Musberger as “creepy.”
But I have to draw the line at the comments of one particularly ringing condemnation from the moral carillon.
Sue Baker, a Michigan State journalism professor, impervious to the irony of her comments when made in reference to a young woman who has staked her fortune on a series of contests in which women are evaluated on their looks, said this:
It’s extraordinarily inappropriate to focus on an individual’s looks. 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.
Just so I’m clear, Susy, you’re suggesting Musberger should have spent every minute of four hours Monday night talking only about subjects that had a “bearing on the outcome" of that 42-14 simulation of a football game? I know Michigan State finished unranked this year, but do you really think it's fair to take out your disappointment on all the rest of us football fans?
* Among other ill effects, Miss Alabama has hired a publicist and -- poor child -- her Twitter account has “blown up,” which I take to be a bad thing.
** And yes. I am aware that I'm skirting perilously close to pot-and-kettle reciprocity with that comment. But I prefer to think of myself as less perpetually offended and more of an astute, sardonic and incisive social commentator and an enemy of hypocrisy. (And if there's a way to make any money from this thing, I'm damned if I've found it.)