Jocks Behaving Badly

On Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick — and why pro athletes seem to turn our brains to mush

Earlier today, the NFL announced it was suspending Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for six games after his misdeeds in a Georgia bar last month.

I was hoping for at least a four-game suspension, so I’m thrilled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had the stones to give Roethlisberger what he deserved. But I don’t think his punishment should end there. I’d also like to see the Pittsburgh Steelers practice what they preach and either trade or release this dim-witted nincompoop who has brought nothing but shame upon their organization. You can’t have it both ways Steelers fans. Either your organization stands for something — at least that’s what the Rooneys say — or you compromise your principles just like most everybody else engaged in the business of professional athletics and look the other way because the jerk in question happens to play the position of quarterback and has helped you win two Super Bowl championships.

Unfortunately, we live in an era where many professional athletes can’t get themselves past the soiled diapers stage of their lives. And there’s enough mess in this diaper to soil us all.

If you get past the part where Roethlisberger, playing his usual part of a drunken, dumber-than-Belushi Animal House frat boy out for another notch on his shiny sexual belt, allegedly forced himself on a 20-year-old girl he plied with alcohol — pulling his penis out of his drawers as he walked towards the rest room where the girl had been deposited as some kind of sick sacrifice — you will find a very long line of people who enabled this to happen. [SIGNUP]

What is it about being around professional athletes that turn our brains to mush? Just how bad do our lives have to be where we compromise principles of human decency and right and wrong, and turn into a lot of pathetic, jock-worshipping sycophants? I mean, there was at least one law enforcement officer in Ben Roethlisberger’s entourage that night. What, was he absent from the police academy the day they taught morality?

Let’s review. Somebody from Roethlisberger’s crew brought the drunken girl to a back rest room in a seedy Georgia bar to wait for Roethlisberger. Someone stood guard in the hallway to that rest room as Rothlisberger pulled out his jimmy and turned predator, turning away the girl‘s friends who apparently wanted to rescue her out of there. Then, police and security in the bar tried to dissuade the girl from filing any sexual assault charges against Rothlisberger even though she was hysterical from the episode. Eight hours later, the janitor scrubbed the rest room with Pine Sol because apparently no one connected with the bar told him that the rest room was now a crime scene. The incident was not reported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations until four hours after the janitor had scrubbed the rest room. And, did I forget to mention that security tapes from the bar that night were mysteriously taped over or erased all together? Other than that, everything was jake.

You mean to tell me there was not one person with Roethlisberger that night who had the decency or the courage to grab him, pull him to the side and say, “Yo man, not cool.” What, they were afraid that ol’ Ben would expel them from the Little Boys Club and they wouldn’t be able to tell their buddies anymore that they were friends with Ben Roethlisberger?

Jocks are just people, people. No better, and maybe even a little worse than most of us. Hey, I understand that many of us who ever dared play a sport growing up had dreams of being a big leaguer. And so we marvel at the ones who have actually made it as they dazzle us with their supreme athleticism. But the Roethisberger caper is illustrative of how we can certainly take hero worship too far. In the end, all we do is embarrass ourselves.

I took a call yesterday from a conflicted Steelers fan who, while disturbed by the Georgia bar room story, was sympathetic to Roethisberger being able to return as the team’s quarterback. I slapped the truth meter on him and asked him if he would have felt the same sympathy for the situation if it had been, say, the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs. He said, probably not. And then he admitted that once Roethlisberger was introduced once again as the Steelers’ starting QB, he would cheer Big Ben as he ran through the tunnel and on to the field. Ugh.

I remember when Michael Vick signed here and there was all this public outrage about how the Eagles had compromised their principles by signing this “dog killer.” And then two days later, I read an item in the gossip section of the Philadelphia Daily News that said fans lined up for autographs and photos with Vick as he waited for a cheese steak at the Talk of the Town on Broad St. near the stadium.

Clearly, there is something wrong with that picture.

Listen to MIKE MISSANELLI weekday afternoons on 97.5 The Fanatic.