- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Martha Burk has put Andy Rooney in her rhetorical sights following a highly beneficial spat with Hootie Johnson.
Soon after Rooney raised an objection to nice-looking women conducting penetrating interviews with football coaches at halftime, Burk made herself available to the usual cable television suspects to lament this vicious attack on women's rights in America.
Rooney, who has made a nice career out of being a cantankerous cliche, is entitled to an opinion, even one that would eliminate the football's omnipresent eye candy. Rooney, who is believed to be still breathing, can be forgiven his momentary lapse in maleness. He is older than dirt, and possibly out of ideas.
The eye candy goes with the testosterone-fueled fare, along with the beer and red meat. Many of the women on the sidelines are only half-dressed, and only half-objectified. The cheerleaders are all doctors and lawyers in their day jobs, as it is inevitably explained to temper their fine display of skin. It all contributes to the hormonal rush, excluding Burk and Rooney, well past their primes.
Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, has a job to do, which is to save Melissa Stark's position with "Monday Night Football" and to make Augusta National Golf Club safe for at least one incredibly wealthy woman.
Lots of words have been dispensed in pursuit of these noble undertakings, and women across the land can rejoice in the symbolism of it all.
Life would be so less fulfilling for women if Stark were not around to ask a coach, "How do you think your team played in the first half, coach?"
To which the coach invariably responds, "I think we have to do a better job of containing their attack."
Thank you, coach. Thank you, Melissa. Now back to Al.
This exchange takes a certain skill, no doubt. A network boss would not want a 300-pound woman unearthing the views of a coach. Or even Eric Dickerson, who used to be Stark's caddy.
As a reputable ex-running back, Dickerson was just the sort of the person Rooney could appreciate on the sideline. Dickerson had the background, expertise and entree to be a crack sideline interviewer. He had it all, except for a personality. Whenever an ABC camera was trained on him, he seemed to come down with a blank look and a bad case of the mumbles. He looked almost like the person who just has been told that their house is on fire and that Buffy, the family pet, is trapped inside.
So Dickerson was relieved of his responsibilities with "Monday Night Football" going into the season, and it was left to Stark to brave the unnerving tear gas incident at the place formerly known as Raljon last month.
She conveyed the danger with aplomb. There was a peculiar smell in the air. Her eyes hurt. Then it was back to Al.
Stark's resolve in that frightening moment did not go unnoticed by Burk, the self-appointed champion of all women, especially those who can solicit her a couple of minutes of air time on all the news shows.
This is not to take anything away from Burk, who has stumbled into mini-celebrityhood as the all-knowing arbiter of social tastes, whether it concerns a private golf club or football's eye candy.
The latter is especially different, considering Burk is a raging feminist, and feminists sometimes respond curiously around nice-looking women. But there Burk is, just saying yes to eye candy, and for once, we can agree with her cause. Go, Martha.
To be fair, it is hard to say what Burk's position would be if Stark performed her duties on occasion in a swimsuit and high heels, at least in the fall, when the weather is still temperate. Perhaps a swimsuit and high heels would be too obvious, but it would be closer to the spirit of the labor.
The sexist charge is tricky, cutting as it does a number of different ways.
Women, after all, make the best cheerleaders, particularly women in their 20s with long legs, and this point can't be debated. It would be a darn shame if a man ever tried to be one of the cheerleaders with the Dallas Cowboys. That might be a legally untenable view to have, even sexist, because a guy in his 20s with long legs probably could dance and cheer as well as a few of the Cowboys' cheerleaders. But a dude cheerleader just wouldn't be the same.
College football has dude cheerleaders, after all, and they just don't celebrate a game's spirit as well as women.
Of course, that is just one opinion, not unlike Rooney's, not intended to be fighting words.


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