By Eric GargiuloIsn’t it amazing that in 2011 with hundreds of sports reporters at the Super Bowl that TMZ.com breaks the biggest story? TMZ has posted a video of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger “boozing it up” at a local piano bar and if you don’t think this is a huge story than you are a Steelers fan in denial.
Now normally an NFL player having a fun time at a piano bar during Super Bowl week wouldn’t be that big of a deal, unless his name is Ben Roethlisberger that is. Why is it such a big deal? Well Big Ben already missed four games this season due to a suspension as a result of an incident that came on a night of drinking. The suspension came after a third sexual assault allegation came against Ben last offseason.
Reportedly Big Ben was “boozing it up” in a Georgia college bar on the night in question and how that night ended is anyone’s mystery. The bottom line here is that the report as well as other reports of Ben’s behaviour resulted in a six game suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, later reduced two four games.
“The Personal Conduct Policy makes clear that I may impose discipline ‘even where the conduct does not result in conviction of a crime’ as, for example, where the conduct ‘imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person,” Goodell wrote to Roethlisberger.
But here is why this TMZ video turns into a big story. “There is no question that the excessive consumption of alcohol that evening put the students and yourself at risk,” wrote Goodell in the letter.
Just as recently as earlier this week Big Ben told reporters at the Super Bowl when asked about reflecting on the year, “That’s a reflective question, and now’s not the time for me to reflect,” Roethlisberger said. “Now’s the time for me to focus on a really, really big game.” If focusing on the big game includes singing like a slobbery drunk at 1 AM, well then Big Ben is ready to go!
I am not a Ben Roethlisberger or Steelers fan or hater. But this has to be disappointing news for Steelers fans, Steelers coaches, Roger Goodell, and the Rooney family. The Steelers organisation traded Santonio Holmes due to off field issues which may not have been the best move for the Steelers on the field yet off the field they had it with Holmes. The Steelers could have done the same thing but instead stood by Big Ben. Roger Goodell cut his suspension down two games and in the grand scheme of things, those two games may have made the difference between Pittsburgh playing in the Super Bowl or not. I have to believe that every one of these individuals have to be furious this morning.
This actually plays into a story that the great Peter King wrote about this week involving Goodell and Roethlisberger. King spoke with Goodell for a piece in Sports Illustrated. Goodell told King on the record that he spoke to numerous players around the NFL and none of them spoke up for Roethlisberger.
Goodell told King, “I bet two dozen players … Not one, not a single player, went to his defence. It wasn’t personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, ‘He won’t sign my jersey.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin tried to cover for this simply by asking why NFL players not on the Steelers would want to support someone they are competing with. “I was surprised why the Commissioner would expect 24 players who don’t play for the Steelers to support Ben,” Tomlin said, according to Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Those guys are competitors. I would imagine they would have wanted the Commissioner to throw the book at Ben. That’s funny to me,” told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
I call bull on that one. How many NFL players supported Michael Vick that weren’t an Atlanta Falcon or later a Philadelphia Eagle when the quarterback was in trouble? In Vick’s case he was actually convicted for a crime whereas Roethlisberger wasn’t yet I can’t recall many players who didn’t support Vick. That excuse doesn’t fly coach Mike!
I wrote about the great play of Ben Roethlisberger a few weeks ago and I stand by my blog. Looking at Big Ben objectively, I believe that Roethlisberger is the best quarterback in the NFL. I received a ton of criticism from people who looked at Ben’s off-field activities and blasted me for the praise of the Steelers quarterback. While I won’t back off my on field claim, these critics may have a point when the “Steelers leader” is out boozing it up on Super Bowl week.
So yes, when an NFL player who just served a suspension this season due incidents surrounding alcohol usage is telling reporters one day how focused he is on the big game and out two nights later “boozing it up” it is a big story. If this were Michael Vick, Tank Johnson, or Pac Man Jones out at a night club during Super Bowl week it would be the hot topic of the week. Hell, Tony Romo got more flack for taking a vacation to Mexico on a bye week a few years ago! For some reason up until now Big Ben has gotten a pass.
Yes boys will be boys and they are allowed to have fun, just not the ones coming off suspension. I get it. I don’t believe that NFL players sit in their hotel rooms all week thinking about the Super Bowl. But when you are Ben Roethlisberger you have a responsibility to your team, the organisation, and the league to make sure that these kinds of videos don’t pop up on TMZ. Guess what Ben, they do serve non-alcoholic drinks at piano bars.
And if the Steelers lose at Super Bowl XLV, you better believe that this story becomes a much bigger deal in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger better play lights out football on Sunday or the good will he has worked hard to earn in Pittsburgh over the last few months will disappear before he can sing, “Sing us a song tonight!”
This post originally appeared at Camel Clutch Blog.
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