PRO PUNTERS ARE THE NEW 'IT' ACCESSORY
By DANICA LO
January 11, 2008 -- THE hottest celebrity arm candy this season isn't a Birkin or the latest Louis bag. It's a hulking, sweaty, diesel, grease-painted beefcake with abs of steel - aka a pro football player.
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen nabbed Tom Brady from right under Bridget Moynahan's nose, Jessica Simpson's got the entire NFL in a tizzy over her appearances at boyfriend Tony Romo's games, and sex bomb Kim Kardashian's on-or-not engagement to Reggie Bush has tabloid tongues a-wagging. And while the entertainment and athletic worlds have always had their romantic dalliances - think Elizabeth Taylor and Glenn Davis, Jane Russell and Bob Waterfield - it's only now that footballers are really having their day in the sun.
The allure of the pigskin is firmly rooted in American mythology.
"In college, athletes are viewed as the campus gods," says Staci Robinson, author of "Inter-ceptions," a largely autobiographical account of her experiences as the fiancée of an LA Rams player. "When they get into the NFL, the whole college fame is catapulted into American society and they're idolized like crazy."
And the women in their lives are getting ample playtime, too.
"When you're attached to a football player, married to one, engaged to one, you have a different kind of lifestyle," Robinson says. "There are lots of perks that go along with it."
So much so, in fact, that the British term WAGs, an acronym for "wives and girlfriends [of ballers]" was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2007.
TV producers have also taken notice - hugely successful shows such as "Friday Night Lights," "Two-A-Days" and "The Game" hinge entire story lines on the romantic lives of players.
"America is fascinated by this," says Mara Brock Atil, the executive producer of CW11's "The Game." "Everybody loves sports, and I was always fascinated when the cameras pan to a player's significant other - seeing her helps to further define who that player is. Who are these women?"
These ladies might be from different walks of life, but they're brought together in the stadiums.
"We're forced to make friends with other wives and girlfriends," says Robinson. "And in the stands, you watch the game and you talk. All the women sit in the same area, so if you're a rookie's girlfriend, they'll tell you who's who, who the groupies are - they hang out together - who's cheating, how many girls a player down there has up here in the stands. Sometimes one guy may have two - you just watch and see who claps when he makes a play.
"The girlfriends and wives will wear heels, head-to-toe Gucci or Chanel, and full makeup," Robinson says. Then again, "these are women who wear heels every day."
Not all WAGs are created equal; there's a definite hierarchy.
It's rumored that there are sorority-like social and support groups for the women. This comes complete with custom-published magazines filled with tips on how to deal with boyfriend problems - especially groupies.
"When I was doing research for my role, I talked to a lot of football players," says Tia Mowry, who stars as a jilted ex-girlfriend in "The Game."
"My cousin plays for the Houston Texans, and he told me they have classes they go to when they're rookies on how to deal with the women in their lives - telling them to be careful."
According to several sources we spoke to, it's common practice for groupies to salvage the contents of used condoms for DIY insemination.
"One guy, who played for the Chargers, walked into the bathroom and caught the girl doing it," Robinson says.
"She had a turkey baster in her purse."
And even marriage doesn't squelch the cutthroat nature of dating in the NFL.
"I knew a football player who was married to a woman who was absolutely gorgeous," Mowry says. "He found out she was cheating on him with a higher-profile celebrity football player and had just used him to get into the scene."
That's not to say that all WAGs are playing the game.
And, to be sure, there are still plenty of good fish on the field.
"Football guys are very disciplined and very goal-oriented. They give up a lot and put loads of commitment into it," says 25-year-old Kristin, who has been dating her NFL boyfriend since college. "The worst is when they let the fact that they play football get to their heads."