By Dan Bernstein–
Let’s get one thing straight, first: Ben Roethlisberger did some bad things. The knee-jerk yelp of “he was never charged with anything!” is meaningless, when we consider the facts of the two publicized cases, the NFL’s own investigation of his behavior, and the quarterback’s stated contrition.
Roethlisberger said he regretted his actions, and vowed to change his behavior. Had he done nothing wrong, there would be nothing to regret and no reason to change.
He is trying to rehabilitate his image, talking about wanting to be a role model, and smiling forcedly through interviews in the pre-Super-Bowl beehive.
As his post-suspension return to the field has grown into a return to the biggest stage in sports, we hear of his “redemption” in multiple headlines and stories, as if achievement between the lines has anything whatsoever to do with his behavior in nightclubs and bars.
It doesn’t, of course, yet it remains the easy story to fabricate – touchdown passes and trophies somehow counterbalancing his attempts to force himself on women.
It’s like taking two scores from different games in different sports and juxtaposing them as a credible result. Nobody would buy that except the irretrievably stupid, or those wanting to believe only so they can untangle conflicted rooting interests.
Roethlisberger was a good quarterback, was exposed as a predatory scumbag, and remains a good quarterback. He’s good at his job, and nobody should be surprised. Michael Vick is still good at his job, too.
Bad people have jobs, and may even be good at them. These are separate things.
It just so happens that Roethlisberger’s job is spotlighted and celebrated. Millions of people want him to succeed at work, so they get confused. If, for example, he hung drywall for a living, it would be clear to see that a return to the successful hanging of drywall does nothing to obviate other actions.
Were he a carpenter, would we be so quick to want to say “He may have violated those girls and all, but look at the detail on these shelves! Now everything’s ok!”
Comments from teammates, coaches and fans miss the point, too, both in their content and continued use by soft-skulled media to illustrate a fallacy. All in it together, their only vested interest is on-field success. We simply don’t need to hear from them on this issue.
The redemption theme in sports and entertainment is common, and is a result of emotional discomfort. There seems to be a fundamental need to eliminate the cognitive dissonance we experience when spending so much time wanting bad guys to do well. We all know it at varying levels of awareness, and feel it more keenly at different times as we pay attention to athletes, singers and actors.
We want to like our favorite teams, and like the people on them. But that doesn’t mean it’s right to make things up.
Some people are better than others at forming distinct channels of thought that allow for sports to be enjoyed while still understanding the truth about the people involved.
Those clear thinkers find the football-as-redemption idea offensive.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM.
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