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.


You’re welcome

I was out to dinner the other day when I saw a suspiciously familiar image pasted to the door of the eating establishment. I scoped it out on the internet and found the Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau website, trumpeting their signature image for 2009:

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, no?

The elephant in the room

So, Dorothee, where the heck ya been?

The short and mostly true answer is that I’ve been working. Always working.

But the more complete answer is that I’ve been mired in ever-growing anxiety about what to do about this place. As I’ve mentioned a couple times since I got home, it’s hard when I’ve built an identity around yearning for Pittsburgh from afar to refocus on considering Pittsburgh from within. So hard, in fact, that I’ve gone months and months without even trying, and like that email that you mean to send to an old friend but take some time getting around to, the longer I go without having anything to say, the more ashamed I become and the longer still it becomes.

What I knew all along that I didn’t want was to make this site, “Dear Pittsburgh Diary, Today I went to Taj Mahal for lunch, then went shopping at Giant Eagle. Maybe I’ll make mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner…” My private life is two things: 1. private, and 2. boring. Neither you nor I really wants for me to write much about it. And when I was Out of the ‘Burgh, I could commentate (not a word) on life here without being autobiographical about it, but now, much of what I can say about Pittsburgh is just my life in it. I’m not an insider to anything worth hearing about (except for one aspect of ‘Burgh life, about which I can’t, or at least shouldn’t, opine, due to the jay-oh-bee). It’s all neighborhood walks, making dinner, potholes, wishing I still had heated seats in my car, and WTF-Steelers-didn’t-make-the-playoffs. Private/boring.

So I just disappeared. I guess in my indictment of Pittsburgh’s lousy self-esteem, I forgot to turn the mirror toward myself – I figured no one was paying attention and no one would even notice I had gone. Imagine my surprise when I got a kind note from Woy, letting me know I was missed.

Thanks, yinz, for noticing. While I was feeling like I owed you more than the mundane details of my life, I forgot that I also owe you a little check-in now and then. How ’bout I try to keep up with twitter, where I don’t have to feel so clever and insightful, and I’ll be back here if I ever get interesting again? I think I can handle that, if you can.

From TMZ.com

From TMZ.com

Gee, Twenty

So, we’re inching closer to a big event here in Pittsburgh that you might have heard about, if you haven’t been walking around with your head tightly wrapped in layers of black soundproof acoustic foam. Yes, the G20 is coming up next month, and in addition to threatening to turn my twelve minute commute into a four hour one, it’s polarizing ‘Burgh-watchers everywhere.

For example, this Wall Street Journal blogger answers his own question, “Why Pittsburgh?,” by likening the summit’s host city to L’Aquila, the Italian city that hosted the G8 earlier this summer. The town of less than 100,000 inhabitants was chosen for the G8 as a show of sympathy and solidarity after it was devastated by an earthquake in April – the idea being, apparently, that the summit would bring in jobs and publicity that would help L’Aquila recover. Well, uh, thanks for that… but I can’t help but point out that some job loss in a cool overall economy is not exactly comparable to a natural disaster than killed over 300 people.

On the other hand, the columnist for the Huffington Post (never shy about kicking folks when they’re down) picked up the refrain of decline and renewal that Pittsburghers have been singing for decades.

From inside the city, the Eds and Meds at CMU, Pitt, and UPMC are excited to show the G20’ers what we’re made of in the 21st century, inviting summit attendees to tour their facilities in Oakland and see the labs and classrooms that have replaced coke ovens as the workplaces of many locals. And the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project objects to everything the G20 stands for and is not afraid to say so in the most incomprehensible and opaque way possible (their goals are to “lay the groundwork, provide an information clearing house, create & distribute publicity and educational materials, build momentum for the mobilization, engage in local, regional and national outreach, and develop an action framework.” Oookaay.)

And if that’s not weird and conflicted enough for you, there’s this, from a blog so thoroughly creepy I’m not crediting it:

g20etchingSo, I don’t really know what to say about the G20. I’m willing to imagine that it could do some good things for Pittsburgh if global bigwigs think we’re as great as I do, but I kind of think it’s bringing a lot of the wrong kind of attention our way.

Plus, my commute.

Calling Oprah

Pittsburgh needs Oprah. It needs Oprah to tell it that it’s really and truly good enough to stand up with all those flashier cities that it feels so inferior to. And maybe to buy it a car, or whatever. Because Pittsburgh has a self-esteem problem, and I never noticed it until I had to start telling people that I just moved from Austin.

By now, I’ve developed a standard response to the inevitable gushing of a Pittsburgher who has heard such wonderful things about Austin and was it just wonderful to live there? I’ve developed an even more extensive standard response to the Pittsburgher who reacts to the news that I moved deliberately, on purpose, to Pittsburgh from Austin in the same way that I might react if someone informed me that they have given up eating Roland’s hot lobster rolls in favor of eating dust bunnies.

My response consists of discussing the traffic and crowding problems in Austin, the general sense of smug ennui there, and the fact that I never could have bought such an unbelievably awesome turn-of-the-century Victorian row house there – because 1) it wouldn’t even exist there, and 2) mere mortals can’t afford property there. It consists of extolling the incredible beauty of the city of Pittsburgh, and its wonderful sense of history and identity, and its down-to-earth authenticity that is okay with me being both a compassionate and sensitive servant of humanity and a beer-swilling psychotic sports fan freak. I wrap it up by just shrugging and saying I guess I wasn’t hip enough for Austin, which is the only lie in the whole spiel and inevitably the only part accepted as truth.

I don’t like the underlying principle that this phenomenon seems to suggest – that Pittsburgh’s image problem comes just as much from its own apparent self-loathing as it does from bad PR. The bad PR problem we can overcome, and to some degree we are, if the steady stream of love from the New York Times is any indication. But all the good press in the world can’t save the city from its bad self-image.

Pittsburgh, you need an Aha! moment.

(Note: The above link is brought to you by me googling “Oprah catch phrase.” Perhaps I shouldn’t write about a celebrity if I know absolutely nothing about her. Oh well, what’s done is done.)


Burgh Blog archives are back up???!! This makes me one happy, lazy blogger.

Also, I would like to just state for the record that it’s not completely laziness that has led to this being the first post in like 2 months. My whole brain has also been sucked into my extremely interesting but brain-sucking new job, which also does not allow access to WordPress, during the 12 hours a day I’m there. But mostly, laziness.

It’s not like I haven’t had anything to say. I can’t freaking shut up about how mad as hell and not-gonna-take-it-anymore I am about the fact that after the big fire sale, the Buccos’ entire payroll is less than their luxury tax payout. I just haven’t been able to plant myself in front of a keyboard long enough to rant adequately about anything.