Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Don't Throw Stones...Unless No One's Looking

Yesterday, 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback and 2-time accused sex offender Ben Roethlisberger issued a written statement in which he apologized to his family, fans, teammates, and the NFL for the behavior that led commissioner Roger Goodell to levy a 6-game suspension against the superstar.

"The commissioner's decision to suspend me speaks clearly that more is expected of me. I am accountable for the consequences of my actions. Though I have committed no crime, I regret that I have fallen short of the values instilled in me by my family," Roethlisberger said in the statement.

Roethlisberger went on to say that he will not appeal the commissioner's decision and that he will not put himself in this situation again.

Undoubtedly, there are some fans that will gladly accept this apology from their Super Bowl winning leader and look towards summer mini camps and fall scrimmages, when Sportscenter updates will be replaced with the crack of shoulder pads. Others may view Roethlisberger's statement with cynicism, having bore witness to the same choreographed charade a dozen times before with prominent public figures such as Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Kobe Bryant, and Bill Clinton to name just a few.

To the football purest, if Ben's off the field shenanigans matter at all to them, the proof of his reclamation will be in how he performs on Sundays and in clutch situations in January and February. To the layman or the fan who has a wife, daughter, grand-daughter, or niece, there may be nothing that Roethlisberger could ever do to gain or regain their trust, respect, and admiration. His violation of that young lady in Milledgeville, GA. hit too close to home.

I don't condone Ben's actions in the least bit, although I understand how a young, rich, successful athlete can find himself the aggressor and victim of a situation like this one. I can't say for sure how I would act if I was as privileged as Ben but I'm pretty sure, from the actions that I engaged in during my college years with less money, talent, and fame, that I would be prone to making the same mistakes, if not worse.

The one place that Ben does have my sympathy is in the fact that he is a victim of the reality show culture that we consume and fuel, where every action is pre-judged, judged, and re-judged before a live studio audience. Whether it's Judge Judy or Judge Mathis, Dancing With the Stars or American Idol, Survivor or the Biggest Loser, every minute detail of our lives is put to a popular vote. If you're thinking that I'm sensationalizing the effects of reality tv on our culture, just think that more people cast votes during American Idol than they did for either candidate in the 2008 Presidential Election! To have one's guilt or innocence decided during a trial by a jury of your peers in a court of law is no longer a right, it is a luxury. As the District Attorney in Milledgeville Frederic D. Bright said during a press conference, his office does not prosecute morality. His insinuation was that he wished he could.

If there is any good news for Ben Roethlisberger it's that there will be another goof up by another famous person that will thoroughly overshadow his faux pas and the public's ever decreasing attention span will be stimulated by some fresh, new New York Daily News-style fodder (I'm sure Tiger Woods and his camp are thoroughly enjoying their reprieve). Ben will go on to have another Pro Bowl season, take his team to the playoffs, and raise tons of money for battered women's shelters and anti-teen drinking programs. The sun will rise in the East again in the Steel city.

The not so good news is that we, as a society, are moving at break neck speed toward a bottomless abyss where our friends, neighbors, and ourselves will be constantly put on trial in the most public manner possible. A person will be able to act as judge, jury, and executioner without bearing the burden of having proof beyond a reasonable doubt but simply by having an opinion and internet access. We are all familiar with the phrase "don't throw stones if you live in a glass house" but when your stones can be thrown anonymously and without fear of retribution for your actions, the stones will fly indiscriminately and in ever greater numbers.

If baseball is America's passtime then our second favorite passtime is ragging on people who are more talented, have more money, and are better looking than us. In a day and age where people unexpectedly grasp the brass ring of fame, it may be advisable to holster your stones because you never know when you'll need to use them as a paper weight as you pen your public apology.

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