Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why I'm done with Ben Roethlisberger

I'm a Pittsburgher. I was born here, I've lived most of my life here, and barring disaster, I'll one day die here. I love this town. I consider it an integral part of my identity and ingrained in the very fiber of my being.

When friends come in from out of town or I meet someone new to the area, I love nothing more than showing them around, highlighting the distinctly different neighborhoods, diverse architecture, expansive green space, and local culture. But occasionally, I like to leave Pittsburgh. I like to see other places. And in the dozen or so other countries I've visited, the first thing anyone mentions upon learning I'm from Pittsburgh is the Steelers (except in Canada, where the conversation invariably turns into a Sidney Crosby lovefest).

Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Munich has Oktoberfest. Amsterdam has legal drugs. Egypt has the Great Pyramids. Philadelphia has the Liberty Bell. And no matter where in the world you go, when you say Pittsburgh, they say Steelers.

I don't have a problem with this. I'm someone who can wax poetic for hours about my hometown, extolling its virtues and laughing with a sense of self-deprecation at its shortcomings, but the instant association between Pittsburgh and the Steelers doesn't bother me. It doesn't bother me, even though I know that there are more important things in life than football, and that Pittsburgh has way more going for it than just the Steelers.

I know that the NFL is full of miserable human beings, and really, I have no problem with that either. It's the reality of modern professional sports that some of these guys are just jerks, that we as fans are forced to make decisions about what we value about sports, and to what degree we're willing to tolerate or overlook their asinine behavior.

I don't care if Jerome Bettis ever traded signed footballs for blowjobs. I don't care if Hines Ward has an apartment where he takes women he picks up in bars. While those kinds of things might be scandalous or objectionable, at least they're consensual.

What I do have a problem with is having your buddy escort the completely lit 20-year-old girl down the hall and into the bathroom, then following her in and trying -- successfully or not -- to take advantage of her while your buddy watches the door.

I have a problem with it because it's the worst kind of scumbaggery. I have a problem with it because it's criminally sleazy. I have a problem with it because this is one of those very rare scenarios you're able to look at and say with great certainty that it's both morally and ethically reprehensible. And I have a problem with it because the Steelers are the face of Pittsburgh, and Ben Roethlisberger is the face of the Steelers.

Like it or not, Ben Roethlisberger represents Pittsburgh. And through the troubling pattern of behavior we've seen from him the last few years, he's done more to embarrass it than he has to make it proud. It's for this reason that I don't want him representing me or the city I love.

We here at Free Tank Carter love sports. We love them on a disturbingly technical level. When Franco gets drunk, he does things like try to build small scale replicas of PNC Park out of french fries and Yuengling empties. I'm not even kidding. But there's more to sports than just winning.

There's been a lot of chatter lately on this issue, and it seems as many people are simply confused by it as the rest are divided. That said, to those who whose only concern is how the team performs, I offer the following:

Ben has no work ethic. He doesn't take care of or condition himself. He's a drama queen of the highest order, making up insignificant injuries so he can tell reporters he played through them after the fact. He doesn't study or prepare for games. Go back and watch any game from the past two seasons, then try to tell me with a straight face that you think Ben knew his hot routes, or gave any indication whatsoever that he'd studied an opponent's defense. Ben's 2008 campaign was nothing short of abysmal. He phoned it in every week of the regular season. It was only when the playoffs rolled around that he saw it necessary to put forth a modicum of effort.

He is coasting on his natural ability right now. Very few professional athletes can afford to do that. But how long do you think that's going to last? He just turned 28 -- there was a party, you may have heard about it -- and he's as out of shape as ever. The pass rush doesn't age; it's continuously replenished with new players -- guys who are younger, stronger and faster. The guys out there trying to clobber the quarterback have to keep themselves in shape or they're out of jobs. Do you honestly see Ben Roethlisberger being effective at age 30 or 31 if he can't even make the most of what he has at age 28? This is a guy who is setting himself up to fail. At this rate, he's going to hit a wall, and he's going to hit it soon.

The Steelers need to get rid of Ben while the gettin's still good.


Arlan said...


Arlan said...
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Edward said...

I have to tell you: Your article is both outrageous and peculiar. What caught my eye the most was the moral equivalence you make between Bettis and Ward, and Ben. As in, since Bettis and Ward are doing things that are consensual then what they are doing is more "okay" than what Ben did or did not do. But let's get some things straight here.

First, just because two people consent to doing something does not make it "okay" or more "moral" or "legal". Whether it has to do with sex or anything else.

Second, we, you and me and everyone else, don't know what happened in that bathroom. Ben has his story. The girl has her story. The bouncers have their story. The bodyguards have their story. Her friends have their story. All I know is, the DA chose not to prosecute. All I know is, the girl said it wasn't rape and then said it was. All I know is, Ben did not have to give his DNA. The most that we know is that Ben and his friends probably were supplying minors with alcohol. Minors who had fake ID's. So, it is VERY possible Ben and company did not even know they were underage. And that brings me to my next point.

Third, it seems funny to me that every weekend all across this country and others, guys go out to clubs and bars to pick up chicks knowing that if the girl has a couple in her than it will be easier to get some action. But, these same guys will criticize, lambaste, lampoon to the point of wanting Ben traded, for essentially doing the same thing. BUT. . .it's "okay" if Bettis trades signatures for blowjobs and Ward has a "sex apartment". . .two things I don't think most guys would do even if they had the chance. The hypocrisy is deafening.

As for everything else, Ben leads the team to the Super Bowl BUT he's not prepared. Ward and Holmes have stellar years BUT Ben is not prepared. Ben does everything in his power to keep the Steelers winning while the defense is giving games away BUT he's not prepared. He's getting hit more than any qb in the league and stays in the game BUT he's out of condition. He wants to play with a concussion BUT he's a wimp. I don't get it. What exactly do you want from the guy?

Somehow all of this seems a bit like piling on. As in, "Now that he's been accused of rape. . .we have to criticize his on-field play as well." And it makes no sense. And I'm 39 and love the Steelers but Ben does not represent me nor the city. Does he represent the team. Sure. But he's just an athlete. And ten years from now when he is retired from the Steelers or some other team, we will have forgotten all about this and the Steelers will still have their "good" reputation. Ben will not ruin it whether he stays with them or not. Steelers of the 70's shot at cars and did steroids. We're still cheering them and I don't see anyone giving those trophies back.

As for him being on the downside of his career. Ben gives the Steeler the best chance to win this year, the next year, and the year after that, no matter what he is doing off the field. And to think any other way is crazy.

Brad K said...

Read the definition. Need I say more?

NO,BUT I will.

To all of you flinging crap at Ben: Unless he is your father, brother or son, his personal life is no conern of yours. He is the son / brother of the Pittsburgh Steeler organization. Let the family deal with it. We should all be fans of what the Steelers do ON the field, not off.

Brad K said...
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Kelly said...

To Brad K., if that were true than why does the NFL have a personal conduct policy? Two years ago my son's elementary school was chosen by Ben's fundraising people to sell Big Ben's BBQ Sauce. Ben came to the school, spoke to the children about playing football AND about life off the field. He met them, shook their hands, became a real person to them. He was no longer just that guy on the TV playing ball.

My son worked very hard to be one the top 10 sellers so he could get his picture taken with Ben. Don't tell me he is just a ball player and his actions off the field are nobody's business but his and his family's. He has been actively involved in the community and his behavior is important. It is very naive and shortsighted to say his personal life is of no concern to us.

Perhaps you would like to explain all of this to my 8 year old son? That his favorite player is no one he should idolize, that he dodged an enormous bullet by being lucky enought to not leave enough DNA to actually be charged with this crime?

Brad K said...

Kelly. I agree with you about the NFL's personal conduct policy. You are right about that. Ben should avoid those types of situations. Maybe I should have said Ben is a brother to the Steelers but a son to the NFL. Still, let the family deal with it. Again, everything we are reading are accusations. None of us know what really went on. Remember he was accused, NOT convicted. I would be more than happy to talk to your son by the way. I would let him know his father needs to teach him the definitions of admire and idolize.

Edward said...

Let's get a misconception out of the way, first. What happened in that bar was not technically Ben's own private business. It was his own private business until the cops showed up. The cops showed up because an alleged crime had been committed. NOT because Ben was drunk or was hitting on single women, and wanted to have sex with some of them.

Then, when all the paperwork started being filled out it became a matter of public record. So now, anyone can stroll down to that police department and review the documents. It ceased to be a private matter when the police got involved.

So, Kelly, having said that. . .how much of his personal life do you want to know (since you brought it up)? Because I am sure if your son was to know everything that went on with every athlete in every sport there would be no athletes left to idolize. As we heard earlier. . .Bettis trades signatures for blow jobs. Hines has a sex apartment. Mark Grace bangs slumpbusters. The Lakers used to have sex with women between the end of games and press conferences. So, how much do YOU want to know? How many women Ben slept with? If he has any STD's? How much alcohol he drinks per day? Where does it end?

What's absolutely hilarious to me is that on one hand, the American people hate the paparazzi. They hate seeing stars and athletes get chased. They hate hearing stories about how photographers climb over fences and gates for pictures. They allegedly hate hearing about famous people getting divorces. But man, on the other hand, do Americans love buying the National Enquirer! And the Star. And People Magazine. And going to And when things go bad in Ben's case, Steeler fans suddenly start shouting, "We deserve to know what Ben does in his personal life." Does that not seem a little hypocritical?

When I was a kid, I had a poster of Steve Carlton on my wall. I am left-handed. He was left-handed. And he was known as one of the biggest pricks in baseball. Did not talk to the press. Signed no autographs. But, you know what. . .I didn't become that because my parents taught me that athletes were not meant to be idolized. They are just. . .athletes! And if you have allowed your son to get caught up in putting Ben or any other athlete on a pedastal. . .that's your fault, not Ben's.

As for the NFL's conduct policy, that is there for them, not for your son or any other fan. That is a CYA document to protect themselves if one of their athletes who the NFL markets, gets in trouble. The NFL wants to know that if they put a particular athlete out there on shirts, hats, footballs, etc., that they are not shooting themselves in the foot. Their concern is not you or your son's, it's their own. Marketing the wrong player can cost them millions and that is what they worry about. . .the money. And they want recourse if things go bad. Recourse in Ben's case may be a suspension. . .but that suspension will not be handed out because you and your son are upset.

Would all of you Steeler fans please get over yourselves. Live your lives. Enjoy the games. But remember, those guys on the field are just men, not Gods. I get the feeling that what fans want are angels on the field, but the fans themselves want to continue to be devils.

chris said...

The only way pro athletes reprehensible behavior and sense of entitlement of some pro athltes will change is when it hits them in the wallet. And as long as there are fans who will pay to watch them play on the field, buy the products they endorse and continue to idolize them, a growing number will push violate all limits of decency.