If you’re the quarterback of a championship team, you can date the prettiest girl in the state. This is the happy position of A. J. McCarron, quarterback of the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, whose girlfriend — Miss Alabama, Katherine Webb — is strikingly beautiful even by Alabama’s stringent standards. While broadcasting the BCS championship, Brent Musburger made a couple of appreciative but innocuous remarks on her pulchritude, which inspired a penitent statement from ESPN: “We apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that.” The supposed offense here is unclear. Being judged on the basis of one’s looks is what being a beauty-pageant contestant is all about, and the indignities that contestants put up with — crash dieting, glue and duct tape in uncomfortable places, being expected to know which countries are on which continent — far outstrip the occasional clumsy compliment from an aging sportscaster. But if Musburger wants to be on the safe side next time, instead of complimenting a beauty queen on her looks, he can instead earn universal acclaim by asking about her position on same-sex marriage.
It’s hard to believe, but we live in a universe where Archie Comics is more progressive than Star Wars: Archie has had gay characters for several years now, while Star Wars is just introducing them. In an update due this spring, the computer game Star Wars: The Old Republic will include a planet populated by homosexuals (no, it’s not the same one that Superman is from). This would seem a sure recipe for demographic decline unless, like the island dwellers who survived by taking in one another’s washing, they adopt one another’s children. In any case, a critic points out that “there were no LGBT characters in any of the Star Wars movies.” (C-3PO was just sensitive.)
In a rare attack of common sense, the U.K.’s speech police have decided that it is not a hate crime to make homophobic remarks to animals. One case that gave rise to this decision occurred when an Oxford student asked a policeman, “Do you realize that your horse is gay?” For this hate-filled diatribe he was jailed and fined £80, which he refused to pay. More recently, a teenager in Newcastle was fined £50 plus £150 in costs for saying “Woof” to a police dog. One might think this is about all you can say to a dog, if you want to start a conversation at least, but the word “woof” turns out to have a slang meaning suggesting doubts about the animal’s sexual preferences. These episodes, which exhibit the British constabulary’s lack of humor in all its glory, inspired the House of Lords to suggest an amendment legalizing speech that is “insulting” but not “abusive,” which the government accepted. So if you were wondering what the House of Lords’ job is, there’s your answer. Makes the whole Magna Carta thing seem worthwhile, doesn’t it?
Dogs are known for being faithful to their masters, but a German shepherd named Ciccio, of Brindisi, Italy, exhibits a different sort of faith by attending Mass every day, a regularity that would shame most humans (especially in Europe). Ciccio used to go to church with his owner, and since her death, in a display of Pavlovian piety, he returns there every day when he hears the bells ring, supposedly hoping to see her again. We will not speculate on where Ciccio’s devotion (which might be called Fidoism) will lead; but the purity and simplicity of his faith can perhaps hold a lesson for many human believers.
Abel Mutai, the bronze medalist in the steeplechase at the 2012 Olympics, took a comfortable lead in a cross-country race last fall in Burlada, Spain, but stopped short of the finish line by about ten yards. Then Iván Fernández Anaya, running second, caught him — almost. He, too, stopped short when he saw that Mutai had mistakenly assumed he’d crossed the line and won the race. Not speaking any of the languages of Kenya, Fernández Anaya resorted to hand gestures to direct to the finish line the athlete he considered the “rightful winner,” as he described Mutai afterward. “I didn’t deserve to win it,” he said. “I did what I had to do.” As news of his remarkable conduct has spread, the acclaim showered on him by sports fans worldwide has grown. The high-fives to him on Twitter continue to stream in. His coach said he wasted an opportunity, but many more competitions likely await the 24-year-old distance runner. What may never come his way again is the opportunity to demonstrate such magnanimity. Fernández Anaya gives new meaning to the expression “moral victory.”