'DWTS' debate: Do athletes like Hines Ward have an unfair advantage over the competition?


Image Credit: Bob D'Amico/ABC

If you count Helio Castroneves and Nicole Scherzinger as athletes — and, as any race or dance enthusiast will tell you, they most certainly are — then 7 of the 12 champions from Dancing With the Stars are from the wide world of sports. (In your face, all you super tough actors and boy band members!)

With Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward bringing home the glittery disco ball last night, it’s easy to wonder if the reality show’s athlete stars have an advantage on the show. After all, they do have a major foot up, thanks to years of vigorous physical training, which sometimes includes dance. (I’m fairly certain all pro football players are sanctioned by the NFL to know and perform the Super Bowl Shuffle on command.) And as as most late night talk show hosts have been quick to point out, Kirstie Alley wasn’t nearly as athletic as her DWTS counterpart Ward, so did she even have a fighting chance to take the whole thing? Did Hines, like Shawn Johnson and Emmitt Smith before him, come in with physical capabilities the other contestants simply couldn’t compete with? Or was he, like them, just a better dancer?

Of course, that’s not to say athletes are a shoe-in: Football legend Jerry Rice was outperformed by 98 Degrees member Drew Lachey and fellow pigskin champ Warren Sapp was bested by actress Brooke Burke. Still, most of the final three — and, subsequently, the DWTS champs — have been in shape long before their dance partners had to whip them into it.

I’m curious to know what you think though, PopWatchers. Do athletes have an incredibly toned leg up on the competition on DWTS? Let loose in the comments section below!

Read more:
‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: Brawl for the Ball
Hines: ‘I’m not going to apologize for winning’
Maksim Chermkovskiy hints about ‘DWTS’ future

Comments (44 total) Add your comment
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  • Mr. Holloway

    I know it’s easy to focus on the winners, but there have been just as many athletes — Clyde Drexler, Chuck Lidell, Lawrence Taylor, Monica Seles (who was shockingly terrible) etc. — who have been clunkers on this show.

    The athletes must have SOME sort of dance ability, otherwise they’re going to be just as bad as any soap actor or reality show star who is a bad dancer.

    If anything, the real advantage they have is in conditioning and recovering from injury/pain.

    • meme

      Well said.

    • Dr. Linus

      I was going to post something very similar. Well said indeed.

    • Genie

      Right On!

    • Diane

      Thank you, that is the right answer.

    • Katja

      LOL oh god, Monica Seles. I’d forgotten about her. She really was terrible, bless her heart.

  • Madd

    No. If you want to talk about an unfair advantage, look towards season 10 winner Nicole, who was already a professional dancer.

    • peggym

      Yes, anyone who considered her a “singer” has obviously never heard her.

      • WhitleyGilbert

        Hilarious! That’s a good one!

    • Irishgirl

      OMG thank you. I was going to say the same thing. Scherzinger was a ringer. She should have never been on the show. It was a ridiculously unfair advantage. And I agree that really the advantage an athlete has is the mental and physical conditioning giving them better endurance.

  • ashley

    There are singers and others that have some dance experience that you could consider an unfair advantage as well. The thing is, no matte what the “playing field” will never be level.

    • LiT

      Nicole was a dance and theater MAJOR in college, she was most definitely a ringer and almost made me stop watching the show. Just yesterday I saw Nicole on another show and called her Shesaringer.

  • Peggy Sue

    I don’t think they do, as in an unfair advantage. . . . I do like the mix of people they always come up with – it makes it interesting and we get to know lots of “stars” who might not have crossed our paths yet.

  • peggym

    I think a big part of it is the work ethic. Anyone who can make it as a pro or Olympic athlete must have tremendous drive and work crazy hours to achieve their goals.

  • Glowbug

    I thought Chelsea was fantastic and did a wonderful job–I’m just glad that Kirtsie did not win–she did a great job for her age and size but Chelsea had a great attitude & quite a charming young woman!

    • Frenchie

      Agree! Chelsea deserved to either win or be #2. Just look at her weekly routines compared to the safe bets Kirstie did. No comparison. So here I would put the unfair advantage to Kirstie. Not only did she have her (probably limited) fan base for votes, but the Scientologist group and most importantly all the votes that went for Max to keep him in the running.
      So no, I do not believe an athlete has an advantage as there are many other factors.

    • Angela

      I only watched the last week, but it seemed clear to me that Chelsea should win. She was easily the best of the three.

    • Pat

      I wish she at least was the front runner. I voted for her first few weeks until Mark Ballas blew it off with his outrageous attitudes. Poor Chelsea.

  • Kelson

    Different people have different advantages. Actors biggest advantage is being able to get into character more easily. Singers tend to understand the musicality aspects more easily. Athletes have better stamina and muscular control. It’s when you come to people who are not in the entertainment industry (like Buzz Aldrin and Tom DeLay) that you get into people with no advantage at all.

    • Allison

      Exactly. I think a big advantage is also who the celebrity is paired with – I don’t think Kirstie would have made it to the finals if she had been paired with Corky.

      • meme

        good point.

      • Frenchie

        Agree. It seemed like ABC set her up with Maks specifically to make sure they both made it to finals for the ratings they would bring in. Whether they danced great together was a mute point.

  • wtfnyc

    I think the only people with a real and unfair advantage are the ones who already learn choreography as their job — boybanders, ice skaters, gymnasts, etc. As well as, you know, PROFESSIONAL DANCERS like Nicole S.

    • Jay

      My thoughts exactly.
      I remember the seasons with K. Yamaguchi and S. Johnson and Nicole S. were so boring because they clearly had an edge over the rest.

      • Cinders

        Actually, the year that Shawn Johnson won, she should not have won because the best dancer for that season was Gilles Marini. In the end, she won by less than one per cent of the voting public.

  • Chris

    And the Osmonds didn’t have unfair advantages as lifelong entertainers nearly from the womb? And Bristol Palin didn’t have an unfair advantage from conservative political sites associated with her mother that were VERY well organized (ex. Conservatives4Palin.com) in getting people to vote for her? Let’s not pretend that this is a “neutral process”.

  • Stacey

    I think what hurt Chelsea this season was; even though third place was amazing. The anti-Mark vote was fierce this year it seem. If Chelsea had another partner; she might have gone all the way. Hines was very good; but I felt he got judged on his personality. The judges never really graded or criticized him on his mediocre technique in some of his dances. While they were harsh on Ralph and others. The double standard was very apparent. Ralph showed the judges edged him out of the finale last night when he did the Quickstep amazingly. And was very fit. The judges gave Chelsea and Mark a extra 15 points to counteract the low vote totals they were getting… And it edged Ralph out. So I do think athletes have a advantage. It doesn’t always work but usually someone has to have major name recognition to give them a edge; or the athlete has to suck at dancing like Sugar Ray!

    • Irishgirl

      I think having Karina as a partner hurt Ralph too. There’s still a contingent that doesn’t like her too much, and her choreography isn’t always the best. You’re right that there was a double standard in the voting this year. And usually the double standard is only with one or two dancers, but this season it was really apparent across the board. They dismissed alot of Chelsea and Mark’s dances because they took risks, but you know if Derek had been there this season and he’d done the same thing, they’d be lavishing praise on him. They LOVE him no matter what he does. And I think Kirstie was helped by Maks, because he is a fan and judge favorite. But there was a double standard in the judging of her dances. In previous seasons, they’ve given low scores to dancers that make it to the last 5 weeks of the season and are still dancing slower than everyone else, and dancing less complex dances. This season, they completely overlooked those flaws in Kirstie’s dances. And Hines was never judged on his weak footwork it seems. Alot of praise was given to his personality alone. It was a really weird judging year.

  • Esox

    As if Nicole Scherzinger had never danced ever in her life. Everyone can bring their strengths to this competition. If your strength is athleticism, use it.

  • Kate

    Athletes are also used to performing/playing in front of a live audience (as singers and some actors are), but they also probably have more confidence than a lot of singers and actors (especially actors, they can be a sensitive bunch). Athletes also tend to have more postive go-get-em attitudes. You have to believe you can win if you’re going to be a top athlete.

  • Esox

    When you think about it, would Chris Jericho have an even bigger advantage? Wrestling is combining athleticism and choreography.

  • talkin’

    For many athletes, their major advantage is their established fan base, a la Ward’s Steeler Nation. And yes, good physical condition to start with certainly helps. I don’t think they re automatic ringers – well maybe Kristi Yamaguchi was…Shawn Johnson? Never should have won.

    • ShagMan

      I agree whole heartedly that the biggest advantage is the athlete’s fan base. Chelsea is a way better dancer than either of the other 2 finalists but she finished 3rd because of her level of celebrity. They should find another way to judge this thing so that the best dancer wins, not the most popular or the person with the highest level of celebrity.

  • Eurydice

    If Nicole is an athlete, then Donny Osmond is one, too – he’s been dancing on stage his whole life. And I suppose we could ask if Playboy models have an unfair advantage – 2 of them have won.

    • Esox

      Not saying Nicole or Donny are athletes. However it is fair to say that they are both familiar with dance. If that’s your advantage, nothing wrong with bringing that to the table.

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