Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward will compete in the finals of Dancing With The Stars Monday night before learning Tuesday whether he and partner Kym Johnson have won the Mirror Ball trophy. The Post-Gazette has a funny, but appropriate take on it - from their vantage point, and from Ward's, it's all about exposure.
"I mean, you can't buy this kind of exposure," he said before a recent rehearsal outside of CBS Television City. "You know, I'm getting into a new fan base."
He stopped to smile at what was once an absurd notion: "When I walk through a mall, people recognize me for my dancing skill."
The Post-Gazette goes on to describe a survey that compares Ward to Danica Patrick, Tim Tebow, Chad Ochocinco, Warren Sapp and Rafael Nadal in terms of national popularity. The P-G also notes that appearing on Dancing With The Stars increased Ochocinco's and Sapp's popularity among women.
The question is why Ward is concerned about national "exposure," as opposed to simply, you know, winning football games. Not that there's anything wrong with seeking that kind of attention. But he's about to reach the end of his football career, and it makes me wonder what he might be planning next. A job as an NFL analyst? More reality TV? More charity work?
Not honestly knowing or caring much about these things before today, I headed to Ward's personal site to see what he might be thinking. His bio is quite a piece of work:
Tough. Confident. Passionate. Intense. Uncompromising. Persistent. All these words apply when you talk about Hines Ward, particularly when it comes to the game of football and life in general. Nobody in the game is as willing to sacrifice himself and do all it takes to win a football game, and nobody plays the game or enjoys life with more unbridled joy. Pure and simple, Hines Ward is special.
I'm not sure quite what to make of this, because in my experience, tough, confident, intense people generally don't feel the need to announce themselves as such, unprompted, on the internet. Clearly this is someone who's pretty concerned about what image he's trying to project. I suppose we should expect this kind of thing from anyone who does reality TV, but it's still pretty jarring to see from someone I mostly just think of as a tough-as-nails wide receiver. This doesn't necessarily make Ward any less of a person or anything. It's just the world we live in.