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An Oft-Told Tale: The Beauty Queen And The Quarterback

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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, played by 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 cliche 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 football stars — especially quarterbacks.

If football had been around in Shakespeare's time, the Bard would've had Juliet ditch Romeo for Flacco. "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 No. 1 golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, is canoodling with Caroline Wozniacki, who used to be the No. 1 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 Vonn 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, Nomar Garciaparra and Mia Hamm — 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.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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