Sunday, April 18, 2010

Big Ben strikes out

Some years ago, a rookie NFL quarterback caused a stir when the league refused to allow him to write the acronym PFJ ("Play for Jesus") on his game shoes. The next year, his team won the Super Bowl with him at the helm but without him having a good performance; he later said, in effect, "I almost cost us the game."

Just a few years later, he was reported dropping large sums of money in Las Vegas and over the last two years has been accused of not one but two sexual assaults.

I'm of course talking about Ben Roethlisberger, who right now plays for the Steelers (but it remains to be seen if he still will be come July). The obvious question is: What changed? Was he playing around with faith and humility then, or is he going through a stage -- albeit with criminal charges -- now?

Anyway, for those of you who don't live in Pittsburgh, this latest controversy, with Roethlisberger having charges dropped earlier this month, has disgusted probably most Pittsburghers and members of "Steeler Nation." Thing is, we tend to be unforgiving of such transgressions; the Steelers last week shipped talented but troubled wide receiver Santonio Holmes, a former Super Bowl MVP, to the New York Jets for a fifth-round draft pick (and virtually no one complained). Players for the Penguins, Pirates and University of Pittsburgh Panthers also manage to stay out of trouble with the law.

That said, I remember some years ago that Roethlisberger was tapped for a motivational speech delivered during his second training camp. How does a man in his early 20s get the authority to do such a thing? Answer: He doesn't -- he was selected only because of what he does for a living. That's a problem with professional athletics -- players often become "experts" based only on their name.

Perhaps with Big Ben it was a matter of too much, too soon. Let's just hope that he's learned his lesson and can redeem himself.

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