Christian Ponder's declaration that "Football is my girlfriend" didn't last very long.

The Vikings QB has confirmed that he's dating ESPN college football sideline reporter Samantha Steele. I read that on Rick Kupchella's, which also noted: "Just over a month ago Ponder told Star Tribune gossip columnist C.J. that he was single and 'Football is my girlfriend.'"

When it comes to football and dating, a month can seem like forever.

After my Thursday column reporting that a website -- BustedCoverage: Sports Gossip, Drunk Athletes, Hot Cheerleaders, Football News -- had speculated about the secret dating life of Ponder and Steele, I got an e-mail from Twin Cities attorney Ken Ross.

"About a week ago, I saw [Ponder and Steele] shopping at Super Target in Minnetonka. They were acting very much like a couple -- very friendly, laughing. For whatever it is worth," wrote Ross.

"They were a striking couple, let's put it that way. She's good-looking, and he's tall and good-looking," Ross said when we talked Saturday. "If I had known it was them, I might have paid more attention," he said when I began pressing him for more details.

Ross had no idea who Steele was until he read my Thursday column item mentioning her. "When I read her name in your column, I looked her up on the Internet to see if it was her."

Chris Chase of USA Today wrote about the pitfalls of this romance, which Ponder addressed while on Twin Cities radio station 1500 ESPN. "I'm proud of the relationship," Ponder told 1500. "I can brag. I've got bragging rights."

Ah, the blush of infatuation.

Chase also rated the smoothness of those Ponder "come-hither" skills.

"Ponder has tweeted about the sideline reporter and host in recent weeks," wrote Chase. "In one tweet, he took a picture of a child's Cinderella costume at Target and wrote he was 'surprised to see Samantha Steele.' (Smooth.) Ponder also sent Steele a tweet that read 'hello,' but quickly deleted it. (Not as smooth.)"

The hectic schedules of pro football and college football could make this romance a challenge, wrote Chase. "I can't imagine dating a player could be good for the career of any sideline reporter," Chase also wrote.

Me again: But it could be a great move if Steele and Ponder decide getting her MRS. is more important than advancing a broadcasting career.

"Personally, I don't see anything wrong with a potential Ponder-Steele coupling: She covers college, he plays in the pros," writes Chase. "There's no reason to think it will affect her job at all. But perception is key. You know how people get with female sideline reporters, especially ones who look like Steele. The viewing public refuses to judge them based on their merits. It's unfair, but this won't make it easier."

All I care about is whether Steele is good for Ponder's game on the football field -- or whether he should go back to exclusively dating a girl named Football.

Meanwhile, in Philly, Pa., there's a FOX 29 traffic reporter who may be the reason Ponder is being so public about Steele (while pretending not to understand why his personal life is of public interest).

I don't know why or when Ponder and Kacie McDonnell broke up, but according to the Internet, she would appear to be his immediate-past girlfriend. If Christian wanted to make Kacie jealous ...

By the way, Ponder's "Football is my girlfriend" statement was in response to me asking him to let me break the news should he get engaged. While Ponder appears to be a George Clooney type, one woman at a time, I'm guessing the sidelines will be amply sampled before there's a Mrs. Ponder. Unless this is real love.

Kluwe debates empty chair

There was an obvious lack of Viking player support for punter Chris Kluwe when he debated the marriage amendment Friday at Brave New Workshop.

There was also a lack of a debate opponent. I'll get to that.

I went over to the Minneapolis comedy venue for the express purpose of seeing which members of the team came out to support Kluwe. But besides Kluwe, I saw no one I regularly see in the Winter Park locker room, which Kluwe has assured me is no haven of homophobia.

"They're getting ready for the game," Kluwe told me.


Kluwe is an incredibly brave, secure NFLer to be speaking out in support of same-sex marriage. He's even done a photo shoot for Out magazine.

The Vikings kicker says denying these citizens and taxpayers the right to marry is discrimination, plain and simple.

My guess is that most of Kluwe's teammates are about as comfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage as FOX NFL analyst Chris Myers.

While calling the Vikings victory over the Cardinals Sunday, Myers mentioned an "article in the New York Times about the Vikings punter calling him the most interesting man in the NFL. He's busy on Twitter, has strong opinions about things."

Strong opinions about what things, Myers?

There's no bravery from Myers or the folks supporting the marriage amendment, which would ban same-sex marriage. I was surprised that not even former KSTP-TV anchor Kalley Yanta, the commercial face of the amendment in those TV spots, came out to debate Kluwe on the issue. "They didn't invite me. They know better. I'm terrible at debating," Yanta told me.

"They did not respond to our letter, so we also called them and they verbally declined," said Tracy Call, founder of Minnesotans for Equality. "Believe me, we would have preferred to have an actual debate versus the empty chair."

Kluwe debated an empty chair, Clint Eastwood style, while KQ92 Tom Barnard served as moderator of the debate, throwing out information on the issue. The punter then kicked it around all by himself.

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. Attachments are not opened, so don't even try. More of her attitude can be seen on FOX 9 Thursday mornings.