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Archive for the ‘WWMRD’ Category

Coming out of the closet

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.

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I’ve been tickled by the tongue-in-cheek lists of inside jokes that spawned a Facebook group and this really fairly annoying YouTube video:

But last week when a colleague of mine who has family back in the ‘Burgh gave me a business card with all his relations’ names and phone numbers just in case we needed extra moving help or wanted to be invited to big Italian dinners, I got to thinking about some of the other ways to know you’re a Pittsburgher:

  • You really, truly care about your neighbors just because they’re your neighbors. They’re your people.
  • You approach most of life’s problems with a singular practicality. Life is complicated enough without introducing excess confusion. If the situation is x, and the way to make it right is y, no sense worrying about z.
  • You have the distinct sense that you were actually right when you were a teenager – there really isn’t anyone who understands you. You discover this when you leave Western PA and have to explain 8 times a day that Pittsburgh is clean now, and you realize that while you were learning about the rest of the country, no one was bothering to learn anything about you.
  • You believe that hard work is a virtue. If you chance to have a job outside of Pittsburgh, you are constantly praised for your strong work ethic just for doing what comes naturally, and may seem like the bare minimum considering how hard your parents worked.
  • You feel at once protective and frustrated with your city, as if it were your kid sister. You’re infuriated when anyone picks on her and will defend her on any turf, but you are constantly annoyed by her many mistakes.
  • You have a complex relationship with Nature. You either hunt or have family who does. You are proud of your city’s many green buildings and not just because of the accolades they receive from around the country – because they usually don’t (see third bullet, above). You recognize that there are vast ecological downsides to mining and refining and smelting and coking, but you also know that food was on the table of many a neighborhood family because of those industries. You are connected with the natural world in a genuine give-and-take way that many people cannot fathom.
  • You want your sports teams to stand for something. It’s not enough that they win – they must represent you and your standards. Your sports heroes are expected to be just that. 
  • Deep down, you sort of suspect that your supposed hatred of Cleveland is at least partially pity. You recognize that the misfortunes that have befallen our neighbor by the lake could just have easily been thrust upon us, if not for the combination of fate, geography, and better politicians. Perhaps you have a little survivor’s guilt. Moreover, you’re certain that most of their hatred is just envy.
  • Disaster happens. You may not have been through anything so tragic and dramatic as Hurricane Katrina, but you or someone you know has been flooded out of their home and started over.
  • You know that the saying really is true – you can’t appreciate the sunshine if you’ve never had the rain.

Here’s to the good, strong, charitable, hard-working stuff that makes us, us.

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Hi neighbors

Today is Fred Rogers’ birthday. Or Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Day, a day to honor Mr. Rogers conceived by his foundation, Family Communications, to carry on his spirit of human-to-human caring.

I don’t have a Mr. Rogers story of my own, other than all the happy hours I spent as a child watching him invite children all over the country to be good people, believe in themselves, and be his neighbor. But a friend of mine used to work on the hospital ward where Fred Rogers spent some of his last days. She told me that when staff – nurses, dieticians, orderlies – came in to take care of him, he would talk to them and comfort them. He would comfort them, because they were sad that Mr. Rogers was dying.

Fred Rogers didn’t just have a gift, he was a gift. Please pass on his legacy through your own actions, today and every day. Thank you.

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