>Thursday Lunch: Rooting for the Bad Guys

Posted: February 3, 2011 in nfl, super bowl
Tags: , , , , ,

>By Dylan Davis

When I was four years old, I remember sitting in my grandparents’ basement watching Super Bowl XXX (that’s Super Bowl 30 for those of you not in the know). I remember eating cake adorned with Steelers and Cowboys insignias while sitting on horrific eighties-style shag carpeting watching a TV that’s probably been turned into a nice home for a family of landfill rats in the 16 years since. While I don’t remember all that much of the game (other than one of my cousins crying afterward), I do remember being severely disappointed at the outcome. The Steelers lost that day 27-17 to “America’s Team” and from that moment forward I was completely devoted to the Black and Gold of Pittsburgh’s finest.
 
To be perfectly honest, it hasn’t been very difficult rooting for the Steelers. If the previous paragraph had been about the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIII and my lifelong allegiance to the Arizona Cardinals, you probably would be more impressed. Since that fateful day in Tempe, Arizona, Pittsburgh has been to the playoffs nine times and captured two Super Bowl crowns. Only once in my lifetime (1998-2000) have they missed the playoffs multiple years in a row. It’s obvious to see why they are one of the most popular American football teams in the world, and why I won’t be alone in throwing on some Steelers paraphernalia this coming Sunday. With that being said, a majority of the country will become honorary Cheeseheads for a few hours on Sunday because of one man: Ben Roethlisberger.
On March 5, 2010, news broke that Ben Roethlisberger was being investigated in reference to a sexual assault in Milledgeville, Georgia. A young woman attending Georgia State University claimed that Roethlisberger forced himself upon her in a bathroom stall while one of the quarterback’s bodyguards stood outside of the bathroom and prevented anyone from entering. While nothing has ever been proven and no charges were filed, this was the second case against Roethlisberger in under a year and the unsubstantiated evidence could have potentially been damning in the court of law. In light of these allegations, many people in the Pittsburgh area and all over the country came out of the woodwork to tell stories of the arrogance, sense of entitlement, and downright ass-holery (not technically a word, but perfectly accurate in this instance) towards people he deemed “below” him. He demanded free meals and drinks in restaurants and bars and expected the world to be handed to him on a silver platter. This article does a perfect job of painting an unflattering, but true, picture of the once revered quarterback. Small anecdotes started coming out of the locker room about his lack of leadership and the frostiness shown to some of the lesser players on the roster. In a span of a matter of months, Roethlisberger had gone from a heroic two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback to being discussed as trade bait because of his off-field digressions. How could anyone root for a person like this? Allow me to explain.
 
Before I begin, I want to state for the record that I was totally disgusted and horrified when I heard about Roethlisberger’s alleged rape and for a few weeks after I mulled disowning the quarterback, or possibly the entire team, from my fan-hood. While I, like almost every child ever, was somewhat of a bandwagon jumper in my younger years, I was always a fan of the Steelers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Sacramento Kings. It was difficult for me to know that one of the teams I loved on the field was lead by such an uninspiring douchebag off it. Once I backed off the ledge a little bit, I decided that it wasn’t fair to the team to change my allegiance because of one bad apple. Commissioner Roger Goodell flexed his authoritative muscles and ruled a six game (later changed to four) suspension was the correct punishment for Roethlisberger’s misdeeds. Although the QB was never charged in either sexual assault case, the fact that he had put himself in the same position multiple times forced Goodell’s hand.

After being skewered by the 24-hour news cycle and legions of fans all over the world, a light seemed to flick on Ben’s head. He went from this to this. He started to step up in the locker room and was more appreciative of his teammates and coaches. He was more of a factor in the community and has shown a different, more likeable side. Of course, although less than one year of actions is not proof of a change, it’s obvious that Roethlisberger saw that he needed a change and planned accordingly. If he can raise his maturity level for the remainder of his career, maybe people will forget that this ever happened. While that’s unlikely, he may become the next Michael Vick, in the sense that he was skewered for his previous misdoings, but ultimately forgiven by most because of his remorseful ways and superb play on the field.
 
aa.opgn-117333-midWhen you sit down to enjoy possibly the most entertaining Super Bowl in recent memory, don’t think of Roethlisberger as a vile human being. What he supposedly did was not as bad as this, this, and nowhere close to this or this. I know where my allegiances stand. They stand with the man who has shown remorse and has attempted to better his standing in the community and nation by his actions off the field. I stand with the player who has shaken off controversy to lead his team to the brink of another title. And I stand with the team that captured my heart before my fifth birthday and has held it ever since. I stand with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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