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.