Donald Driver Wins ‘DWTS’: The Power of the Athlete Monopoly

dancing with the starsI’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked with the Dancing With the Stars results show on May 22. I was so sure William Levy had this thing in the bag with his smoldering good looks and overall dance talent, but instead football pro Donald Driver came out victorious. This isn’t a bad outcome by any means, especially given this season’s overwhelming talent, but it’s something I really should have seen coming. Athletes have historically been far more successful than any other celebrities on the show, having come in either first or second place ten out of the fourteen times since this competition aired in 2005.

This can’t be a coincidence.

In general, athletes have somewhat of an advantage over other competitors given the physical attributes that come with being athletic: strength, agility, quickness, balance, and stamina — which are all very important qualities in a dance competition. In fact, DWTS expert Louis van Amstel told at the very beginning of the season that athletes are the ones to watch out for. 

“It’s funny that the football players are far away from ever having learned to dance, but the confidence, the flexibility … they just have a natural ability somehow,” he says. Not to mention the fact that athletes are highly competitive in nature, making them much more likely to put their all into each and every performance, perfecting their technique down to the very last head tilt.

But these factors alone aren’t enough to create such a monumental surge in athlete victories — it’s also because they cater to the majority of the show’s demographic. It should come as no surprise to learn that the majority of people who watch DWTS are women, ranging between the ages of 18-54. And, according to Entertainment Weekly, it’s the most popular show for adults 50 and older, earning a whopping 16.5 million in ratings during Monday night’s show.

What does this have to do with why athletes win so often? Well, four out of the ten athletes to have reached the finals have been Olympic medalists. It’s safe to say that pretty much everyone watches the Olympics and tend to view the competitors as patriotic symbols. So it’s pretty easy to see how these competitors could win over the audience. Plus, two of them were figure skaters, and if spending childhood weekends with my grandmother taught me anything, it’s that older people love to watch figure skating competitions. Seriously, Scott Hamilton performing a back-flip was treated like winning the Superbowl in that house.

But that still doesn’t explain how football stars keep finding their way into DWTS finales. Out of the ten athletes who have made it to the finals, half of those contestants were former or current football pros. And since we’ve established the majority of show’s demographic consists of older women, I couldn’t quite figure out what appeal NFL stars could’ve had over them — that is until I realized where a majority of the votes were coming from.

DWTS former pro Louis van Amstel exclusively told us this year that Donald Driver stood a very good chance of winning the competition because he came from a place where the majority of DWTS viewers live: the Midwest. “He’s a football star from the Midwest, and Dancing with The Stars’ demo is the Midwest,” Amstel explained. So it’s no wonder all these football stars normally do so well — football is huge to Midwesterners.

Emmett Smith (winner of Season 3) was a prominent member of the Dallas Cowboys for many years; Hines Ward (winner of Season 12) has been a popular Wide Receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers; and Donald Driver is a Texas-born, Green Bay Packers star. These guys are a Midwest woman’s bread and butter throughout the competition, and the fact that they could actually dance (and dance well) only helped to work in their favor.

So when the All-Star cast gets chosen this fall, look to see which football stars will be returning — cause the odds are they’ll most likely be the ones to beat. Touchdown!


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[Image: ABC]