Friday, April 16, 2010

BIG BEN STRIKES TWO... MAYBE THREE!

Just a few years ago, Ben Roethlisberger couldn't have been more on top of the world.  After leading an improbable two minute drill to win the Super Bowl, memorialized forever by Santonio Holmes' toe touching catch, Roethlisberger had solidified his name in the annals of NFL History at age 27.  At an age where most of us are still trying to figure out what we are going to make of ourselves, Roethlisberger was already close to being on a Hall of Fame ballot.  The hum and rattle from his near-death experience at the helm of his own motorcycle had faded into all but a distant memory. 

From a personal perspective, I admired Ben.  He had taken on the kind of pressure few 20-somethings can handle, and not only addressed it with poise and grace, but had then delivered on the biggest stage, in the biggest of games.  His jersey had it's own hanger in its own area of my closet.  It was only worn on days that it was necesary i.e. days where the Steelers needed a big win, or I simply needed a pick-me-up.  I still have Super Bowl XLIII on my Tivo for crying out loud.

Cut to just over a year later, when the first of what appears to be a number of reprehensible indiscretions have taken place.  The first took place in Las Vegas after Andrea McNulty filed a complaint that Ben had sexually assaulted her.  Naturally, with hero status in place, and sadly Ben's skin color playing a prominent role, he was given benefit of the doubt. 

Until recently....

Just over a month ago, Roethlisberger allegedly assaulted a 20 year old woman, who somehow managed to get into a bar and into his VIP room where he apparently sprung for rounds of shots.  Never mind the bar's responsbility for this underage drinker being there, but regardless of Ben's knowledge of her age, it is clear that alcohol and Ben Roethlisberger should take a hiatus from one another.

Despite the fact that the police officer who took the original report has resigned, due in part to comments that essentially accused Nicole Biancofiore of fabricating the entire event, this is the second time in less than a year that Big Ben has been accused of doing things that may involve "Little Ben" in a lascivious way.  It doesn't take a third accusation (though purportedly there was a Boston officer investigating Roethlisberger for a third event in Beantown) to know that Ben needs to look in the mirror at his reconstructed face and see through the cleanup job.

Today, the Bleacher Report ran an op-ed article about a possible Ben Roethlisberger trade, based mostly on the reports that the Rooney family is livid with Roethlisberger's behavior.  Having jettisoned Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes after multiple run-ins with the law, it seems only prudent that such a question be asked after Roethlisberger continues to have new meet and greets with local police agencies these days. 

Whether Ben is the victim of the kind of lecherous women who went after Tiger Woods with full knowledge he was a married man, or he's guilty of actually assaulting these women, in the end Roethlisberger has no one else to blame but himself.  And in many organizations, he'd get just another slap on the wrist and told to chill out.  But for the Steelers, who still like to think of themselves as a football franchise still on the moral upswing, it is true he could get much more.  No doubt a suspension is looming, yet it's become clear to everyone that a suspension isn't going to change the habits of any millionaire athlete who has the world of women willing to cavort with him.  This past week it also came to light that Terry Bradshaw doesn't like Ben, something that would appear to border on surreal.  After all, the on-air Bradshaw is the epitome of fun and friendliness.  However, that's not the Bradshaw who appeared in front of reports to reveal that Ben and he don't get along.  Bradshaw, a once philandering quarterback himself, tried to warn Roethlisberger of the pitfalls of such exploits, and naturally, was all but ignored.  And now, it's not just Ben paying for it.

For my money, Ben can give the city of Pittsburgh a big "Dating Game" kiss goodbye.  The relationship is over.  The Steelers may struggle for awhile to replace him, but a man intent on toppling his own crown is not one I want leading my Steeler nation.  We elected him to that vaunted position, and he decided that our faith and support wasn't enough.  He needed to expand his kingdom by conquering other subjects -- weaker subjects -- whose good judgment may have temporarily glazed over in an alcohol induced stupor, but upon sobriety returned with ire.

I don't want to see anymore televised apologies.  There's enough footage of these sideshows now to give us a reality show called I'm Sorry.

The good thing is I no longer need to hold my breath every time #7 takes a hard hit on the field.  I no longer want signed action photos of Roethlisberger making great plays.  I no longer want my jersey, and it certainly won't hold any revered space in my closet.
I propose that for every athlete who has a major multiple legal indiscretions, they should have to go around and sign autographs not of them in all their sports glory, but of them commiting the act they were found guilty of. In Ben's case, a nice picture of him sliding his hand under a woman's skirt would be great paraphernalia for a sportsbar wall.  Santonio Holmes could be posed slapping one of his many women.

And if that won't shame any of these self-centered egotists into finding a moral compass for which to base their behavior in public, then perhaps a ban from the game they love so much would wake them up.  If a doctor or politician is forced to resign for such indiscretions, athletes need to follow suit.

Enough is enough.