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She may be ESPN’s star college football sideline reporter and appear each Saturday morning on “College GameDay”, and even contributes to ESPN’s Longhorn Network, but it appears that Samantha Steele has already graduated to the NFL.
That’s according to Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who, pardon the pun, didn’t ponder whether or not he should start bragging about being the beau of Erin Andrews’ “GameDay” replacement.
On Thursday afternoon, Ponder nonchalantly responded to a Twitter follower – a die-hard fan of Florida State, Ponder’s alma mater – who flat out suggested that Ponder and Steele “should” be dating.
“Actually, yes they are,” said the quarterback in the third person.
It brings new meaning to this Ponder quote in September:
“I got nothing going on… I’m all work right now… Football is my girlfriend… A painful girlfriend, they both cause a lot of pain…”
As NFL Network’s Brian Webber pointed out: “I guess it makes sense now why Christian Ponder didn’t want to talk about the quote that ‘football is my girlfriend’ last month on the show [NFL AM].”
As it turns out, it’s already a family affair.
One of the 500+ people Steele follows on Twitter is one Dave Ponder – Christian’s old man. Likewise, Steele is one of only thirteen people he follows on Twitter, as well as Chris Mortenson, Jason LaCanfora, Gene Deckerhoff – the radio voice of the Florida State Seminoles as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – and, of course, his son.
Anyway, there was a Twitter tet-a-tet this past Tuesday night between father and son, and Steele. It started when Pop interpreted a comment – “I’m scared of needles but I’ll follow your lead” – that Steele wrote on Twitter. “Ha… Somebody in Texas is getting ready for a road trip,” he writes at 11:18 PM.
Three minutes later, his son jumps in. “Ha, no, tattoos are being placed in motion. Don’t worry.”
“Just joking,” replies the elder Ponder, “I’m out of pocket at the moment.”
What unfolded over the next half-hour was: Christian trying to fathom what his father’s use of the phrase “out of pocket” meant; Samantha making a joke that Christian failed to get, which led to Samantha claiming it “wouldn’t be the first time” (ooooh!); Christian defending himself by saying he’s “just too smart for unintelligent jokes”; and Samantha schooling Christian by bragging that she’s the “smartest” because “the school I went to (Liberty University, founded by Dr. Jerry Falwell, and located in Lynchburg, VA) was closest in proximity to Harvard.”
“Among this group,” said Dave to Samantha, “you are without question the smartest.”
“If this is true,” Samantha replied, “we are all in trouble.”
So I guess the whole “Harvard proximity” thing was just another one of her “intelligent” jokes.
But the three-way Twitter conversation between Steele, Ponder and Ponder’s father is proof that the Vikings quarterback and the ESPN employee have been seeing each other for quite some time.
I think I know where Steele is going to be this Thanksgiving – and won’t those tweets be fun!
But the reality of an ESPN personality dating an NFL quarterback has some wondering (this blogger included) if there’s conflict of interest, in that ESPN carries NFL games on Monday nights. Consider this past spring, when Kara Henderson suddenly vanished from the NFL Network. No explanation given for about half a year, when she confirmed that she left NFLN “to get married” and raise a family. A decision that I certainly respect. And recently, it was announced that the lucky man who will be taking Henderson’s hand in marriage is none other than Les Snead, the general manager of the St. Louis Rams. Were they dating before her disappearance on NFLN? And why did it take six months to come out with the news? And most importantly, does the league frown upon a high-ranking executive of an NFL franchise dating and/or marrying an on-air personality at the league-run network? Did that force Henderson’s hand in resigning, or did she make the decision on her own?
With that in mind, “Christeele” is going to be worth watching as their relationship further blossoms. Not just because it brings together the parallel universes of professional sports and sports broadcasting, but it’ll give “College GameDay” audience members a chance to be a bit creative with their signage. I bet we’re going to see a gem or two during this weekend’s telecast in Gainesville.
And what if they break up? Who will Christian Ponder make a play for next? Will it be an NFL Network personality? Rebecca Haarlow, maybe?
Just pondering things – pardon the excessive use of the pun.
Hopefully, Samantha Steele will be Christian Ponder’s princess for years to come.