When Sports News & Celebrity Gossip Collide

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Stray-Rod. Tom Brady's baby mama drama. The ongoing Beckham sideshow. Michael Vick and his little federal dogfighting probe.

Yes, the worlds of sports and celebrity gossip are colliding more frequently than ever. Frank Deford, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, examines the emerging trend of crossover sports and gossip stories in his column ...

Hey, did everyone see the photos of Tiger Woods' new baby?

Leaving aside my astonishment at why pictures of celebrity babies are all the rage - hey, I wanna see stars canoodling and throwing tantrums, not their babies that look like everybody else's babies - it occurred to me that this is yet another step up for athletes.

Sports stars are crossing over into celebrity news and entertainment.

A previous high-water mark in this category occurred a quarter of a century ago, when the British tabloid press suddenly began mining Wimbledon for celebrity gossip fodder.

In particular, John McEnroe's behavior had placed him in the raw-meat column category usually reserved for the mistresses of cabinet members. In 1981, after McEnroe's semifinal match, his press conference rapidly descended into an inquisition of matters totally unconcerned with backhands and volleys.

When a gossip gazetteer asked John if he and his girlfriend were "splitsville," this led one exasperated tennis reporter - Charley Steiner of ESPN fame - to complain.

One of the London newspapermen, Nigel Clarke, jumped Steiner, and as John McEnroe looked on, the two journalists scuffled on the floor of the interview room.

Sports vs. celebrity news. A genuine reality show. Live.

Now it's happening in America. Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees actually went from the back page to the front of the New York Post when the paper caught A-Rod entering a hotel elevator late at night with a pretty lady not by the name of Cynthia Rodriguez.

Most sports reporters were aghast at this breach of journalism etiquette. It's still pretty much accepted in the sports fraternity that what players do off the field stays out of the paper. But A-Rod and Joslyn Noel Morse broke that trend. We've got paparazzi peeping pinstripes.

And what was the wedding of the year? Tony Parker, point guard of the San Antonio Spurs, to Eva Longoria, the sexy siren from TV's racy Desperate Housewives.


Of course, athletes and actresses have long been attracted to each other, going back a century ago when Turkey Mike Donlin, star of the New York Giants, married the sweetheart of the stage, Mabel Hite. Jane Russell and Bob Waterfield. Edith Piaf and Marcel Cerdan.

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. Larraine Day and Leo Durocher. Janet Jones and Wayne Gretzky. Halle Berry and David Justice. Brooke Shields and Andre Agassi.

Oh, and Tom Brady and his various and sundry supermodels.

Now, coming to a stadium near you to save the sport of soccer, will you please give a great big American welcome to David and Victoria Beckham. Soccer fans are sure that Beckham, who has been signed by the L.A. Galaxy, will, along with his wife, give soccer the glamor it never had before in the U.S.

I've spent time with David Beckham.

The sport couldn't ask for a better ambassador. But people on incipient success of soccer are like George W. Bush on victory in Iraq. It's always just around the corner!

There's no doubt, as events show, that sports has never been more intertwined with celebrity. But Posh and David Beckham are, I'm afraid, just the American soccer surge.

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