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February 4, 2011

Super Bowl Quandary

Derek Shackelford

I preface my remarks by saying that I like the Pittsburgh Steelers – well, check that – love the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is true that I will be rooting front and center for them Sunday in Super Bowl XLV.


While the Steelers have been my favorite professional football team for as long as I can remember, there is something about this year’s Super Bowl that is different when it comes to my allegiance. The difference has much to do with the starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.


It is interesting that much of the media coverage has been mixed when it comes to #7. There is a part of the story that focuses on the game and his potential impact. The flip side deals with the story about what occurred less than 11 months ago in the college town of Milledgeville, GA; and this is partly due to what did happen or what didn’t happen.


This we do know: Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games this season. The suspension was reduced to four games because of what was classified as “good behavior.”


National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, using the power of his office, deemed that Mr. Roethlisberger’s behavior warranted a six-game suspension. The question that one may ask is what behavior was deemed inappropriate? After all, Mr. Roethlisberger was not charged with a crime within the criminal justice system.


So, what could be so damaging on that night in Milledgeville that would warrant a suspension for a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback? For me, therein lies the quandary with this situation.


When Mr. Roethlisberger returned after the suspension, he led the Steelers to this Super Bowl. Words such as redemption, restoration and resilience have been used to describe the ascendance to being the quarterback of the AFC Conference Champions. Can these words be attached to a football player because of his athletic prowess signifying his change in character?


This is interesting to say the least. It is a presumptuous to believe that because one is successful on the athletic field that their character has been changed or formulated by running or throwing for touchdowns. Do we know the real change based upon returning from a suspension and playing for 14 games?


While the notion is that young women are drawn to superstar athletes, could it be that men are more infatuated with those who possess athletic skill? The short answer may be yes.


This could be based on the premise that some men enable, excuse and protect athletes – star athletes in particular. Fame certainly does come with a price and privacy is often sacrificed.


In some cases fame may even get one a pass, or the benefit of the doubt, when it comes to questionable behavior. I really do not know what took place in Milledgeville that particular night, but reading the police report does reveal that something sordid did happen. Was it criminal? Apparently not. There is a place for forgiveness because as human beings, we all need it – none of us, by any stretch, is perfect.


So, as the media contingent scours and conducts stories on the Steelers quarterback, many people worldwide will tune in to view the athletic action and competition. When the game is over and if the Steelers are victorious, Mr. Roethlisberger, for certain, will be interviewed. It could be his third Super Bowl victory in six years.


While all of this takes place, my thoughts shift to a 21-year-old young female college student who will not be interviewed, but whose life is forever changed – and not because she can run or throw for a touchdown.


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