I’m going to admit something that may or may not cause you to think I am a horrible human being.
I don’t hate The Ben.
I don’t. I also don’t think that he should be immediately traded or cut, and I would never in a million years be claim to be ashamed of The Steelers, or The Rooneys, or The Coach. I’m not using my Terrible Towels to wash the car. My number 7 jersey still hangs in my closet and there it will firmly remain.
Did he act like a stupid teenager? Definitely. Does he need to get his dumb ass together and never ever ever ever place himself in such a foolish position again? Definitely. The therapy that the Commish wants The Ben to get is an absolute must. But I think that a thoughtful response to Ben’s poor behavior requires consideration of a few points:
1. A critical reading of the facts of the Georgia case as published in several news outlets certainly reveals evidence of conduct unbecoming (at least), but it’s quite a bit less clear that they describe rape. Could that be what happened? Sure. But criminal cases aren’t based on what might have happened, and the documents released appear to tell the story of a young, extremely impaired woman who willingly got herself into a position that maybe she realized she didn’t really want to be in after all once she was there, and a big dumb guy who took advantage of said woman placing herself in that position and maybe didn’t pay as much attention to her decision-making process (such as it might have been, given her state of mind) as he should have. That the story told is of a violent sexual assault is a much harder sell.
Of course no means no, but whether we like it or not, date rape is not and never has been as cut and dried as all that. People make bad decisions, or no decisions, all the time, and if they come to their senses early enough the consequences of those decisions can often be averted – and if they aren’t, it’s pretty convincingly a date rape. But you can’t make a bad decision (or no decision), change your mind so late in the game that consequences are already upon you, and expect your new decision to have some sort of retroactive validity when you’re unhappy with said consequences. And we in the public, so quick to judge, don’t seem to have enough information to determine which of those scenarios might have been at play in that bathroom in Milledgeville, after an underage intoxicated woman accompanied Ben Roethlisberger into a bar bathroom but before she didn’t remember if they’d had sex or not.
2. The righteous indignation on display all around the Steeler Nation, evident in the PG poll I took this morning that so far shows fans supporting trading The Ben nearly two to one, seems mildly disingenuous considering that we as a society persistently tolerate this scenario in fraternity houses and dorms in every university every weekend and just call it “boys being boys” or kids “experimenting.” But as soon as it happens with a professional football player, he should be fired, and fast.
Glass houses and stones and all that, folks.
3. The prior allegation, from Vegas chick who boasted to her girlfriends about bagging The Ben for months before deciding to sue him and her employer for it, is clearly bogus and I think we can all examine it on its own merits and agree to that. So may we stop talking about how this is a “pattern?” Okay, thanks.
4. I wasn’t crazy about the inexplicable example-making of Santonio Holmes either (a single fifth-round draft pick for a Super Bowl MVP is, like, the definition of cutting off your nose to spite your face), but I can also see that his situation is different. He has a true pattern (see number 3 above) of unrepentant thuggery, drug abuse, and general grossness that repeatedly resulted in criminal investigations. Starting the month after we drafted him. So yeah, probably a little different, but still not my favorite football business decision ever. Winning isn’t everything, but it is something – as the Pirates have been trying to teach us.
There remains the simple fact that we pay football players to play football, not to be Brownie scouts. And the current Steeler team does what we pay them to do very well. As a matter of fact, they win Super Bowls for us. It is a bonus that some of them are in fact Brownie scouts (The Troy leaps to mind), but most of them are football players, and the last time I checked, football players are people like all the imperfect rest of us.
So I, for one, will not be glad if we wake up tomorrow and find our imperfect quarterback no longer a Steeler. That’s not the Pittsburgh I know – giving up on our kids when we’re disappointed in them.