It's long past time to grow up
Unless you've been living underground for the past few days, you're well aware that the beloved “Big Ben” Roethlisberger is in hot water again as a result of his alleged conduct with a member of the fairer sex. In this latest case, a 20-year-old college student is accusing the Steelers quarterback of sexually assaulting her inside a nightclub in Milledgeville, Ga. This comes just months after Roethlisberger was sued by a woman who claims the athlete raped her at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2008. In the earlier case, I was inclined to believe Roethlisberger. The woman who sued him never made a criminal complaint, and the whole thing had a funny "smell" about it. We don't know yet, and may never know, what happened in the latest case, but Roethlisberger’s "people" are sure taking it seriously. Almost immediately, they suggested that the woman involved had an ulterior motive and said the fact that no charges were instantly filed indicated no crime was committed. For those of you counting, that's one piece of character assassination and one outright lie. Police in George continue to conduct their investigation, and once they have talked to everyone involved, including Roethlisberger and his "posse,” and have examined all the evidence, including surveillance video, they'll make a decision about whether a crime did, in fact, occur. That’s the correct way to proceed. The fact that Roethlisberger wasn't immediate cuffed and taken to jail means nothing. And the hiring Monday of high-profile defense lawyer Ed Garland, whose past clients have included rapper T.I. and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, suggests to me that Roethlisberger and his handlers think, or fear, that criminal charges might be forthcoming. But even if no charges are filed, Roethlisberger’s image has taken another savage beating. Most people were willing to forgive the stupidity of his helmetless motorcycle crash and to overlook the Lake Tahoe incident, based on what became known about the case. But this stink isn't dissipating as quickly, and some fans are finally questioning the lifestyle choices being made by their football hero. I've always thought of Roethlisberger as an egotistical, insincere jerk. And apparently I'm not alone. The AP reported the other day that Roethlisberger has become known for “occasionally inelegant behavior in Pittsburgh.” The story said the quarterback has been the target of complaints from restaurant owners in the ’Burgh who say he has tried to skip out on bills on the grounds that he brought business to the establishments by gracing them with his presence. In Georgia, a college girl who was in the bar where the sexual assault allegedly took place said she was one of the young ladies allowed into the VIP area with Roethlisberger and his contingent. According to the AP, the young lady, Amber Hanley, said she asked Roethlisberger to take a photo with a friend whose boyfriend was a fan, but Hanley said Roethlisberger seemed disappointed that the girl wasn't interested in “something more.” Hanley told the AP that when she rolled her eyes at Roethlisberger, he cussed her and walked away, only to begin “aggressively hitting on another girl.” Based only on my perceptions of Roethlisberger and anecdotal evidence, I’m not inclined to doubt her. I’ve also heard very disturbing stories from young women I know about the nightclub behavior of other Steelers players, some of whom reportedly developed temporary amnesia about the wife and kids back home. There are plenty of people in other professions who behave badly, but professional athletes have to know they’re in the spotlight, and that their actions can reflect badly on fellow players and the franchise. And Roethlisberger clearly doesn't get it. At age 28, he’s no longer some deer-in-the-headlights-of-fame kid fresh out of college. In the Nevada case, I don’t recall him ever denying he had sex with the woman in question, just that he didn’t rape her. I think it’s fair to question his morality if he bedded down with a virtual stranger, even though that doesn't seem to bother a lot of people these days. Nevertheless, after the civil case was filed, you would think that any intelligent person would modify his behavior so as not to put himself in such a position again. Not Roethlisberger. His love of the nightlife apparently lives on unabated, and you have to believe that the Steelers’ brass are not very pleased about the attention he‘s getting. There’s an incredible level of irresponsibility about all this. Not that Roethlisberger is the worst offender. I saw a story over the weekend about cornerback Antonio Cromartie of the Jets, whose contract apparently had to be restructured to account for his child-support obligations. He’s 25 years old, and he already has seven children by six different women. Nice. Fortunately for the NFL, there are quality people like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Donovan McNabb playing in the league. Unfortunately for us Steelers fans, we have the quarterback with the moral, intellectual and emotional development of a 14-year-old.