An Open Letter to Ben Roethlisberger

Tim KingCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2010

MIAMI - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks back to the huddle after injuring his shoulder in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Steelers defeated the Dolphins 30-24.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Dear Ben,
I had a great weekend.  I spent the entire time at a family event filled with laughter, smiles, and memories that are forever burned into my brain.
I hear yours didn't go too well.
We've been down this road before Ben.  The road where the hot young quarterback does something stupid, careless, or both.
It has Steeler Nation praying that you aren't going to die or go to jail.  In fact, in the five years you have been with the Steelers this is now the third time the offseason has gone like this.
It has to be the last time.
I am not going to sit here in judgement of what might or might not have happened in some Georgia town that most fans couldn't find with Google Earth early last Friday.  Not all that long ago I was 28 and single, and yes I had a good time.  I know that single guys, single girls, and a few drinks make people do some strange things.  But I also know the rules are different for me because I wasn't a public figure with a $102 million contract following me around everywhere. 
See, that's the catch. 
I was just another 28-year-old guy out there whom nobody knew and who barely had beer money in his pocket.  Nobody saw me on TV every week and hardly anyone asked me for an autograph.  You, on the other hand, are the very face of one of the most storied franchises in sports. 
That makes all of the difference.
You can't walk into many bars or nightclubs without being noticed anywhere in the country, and yes I know that part of being a star stinks to high heavens.  You can't have a quiet evening alone with someone in a restaurant because the minute you walk through the front door the place is filled with your biggest fans who want a picture or an autograph.  
Unfortunately that is the downside of fame and fortune.  It's part of the deal that you didn't sign but is binding on you and everyone like you whether they like it or not.
The other, as you have found out, is that there are people out there who want to do you harm or at least grab a big handful of that $102 million.  There are young women out there who are not what they appear to be.  You often use private security when you are out in public to handle the former.  But only you can protect yourself from the latter.
This isn't the macho stuff of standing in the pocket a second too long and taking a hit to make a play.  This is playing carelessly and recklessly with your life and those closest to you.  You are not seeing the whole field and those momentary lapses in judgement are once again threatening to send your life crashing in all around you. 
Nobody is asking you to become a monk or a hermit.  We understand that you are living the best years of your life.  We just want to make sure that you live to tell about it.
You apologized to your teammates at the beginning of training camp last year for the distraction that the Nevada lawsuit would bring.  You promised too that you weren't going to let that happen again.  If you get the chance to make that same speech this July, how many of the guys in that room are going to believe it?  What is your word worth to them now?
We know that you aren't a monster.  We know about the charities you support and the small things you do in the community that never get reported.  But now some of those people are going to see you in a different light.  Many of them aren't going to want you around after this.  Same with some of your corporate sponsors. 
Ask Tiger Woods about that.  That part of your life is really over if you wind up in a Georgia jail.
Yeah, think about that last part for a minute.  You could find yourself generating the same sorts of headlines that Michael Vick did a couple of years ago.  Sleep on that tonight.
You have put your teammates, your fans, and especially your employer in a bad situation.   Most of us out here in the real world would be out of work already over a situation like this, but the Steelers and the NFL aren't normal employers. 
Still, you have given them reason to consider if your contract was a smart move or not.  It's very likely that the team is going to want some written assurances from you about your conduct.
When and if all of this madness settles down you need to buy yourself a plane ticket to Ireland and go pay the American Embassy in Dublin a visit.  Ambassador Rooney likes you as a person and has never shied away from saying so publicly. 
Of all of the people you have let down, Dan Rooney is right near the top of the list.  He needs to see you in person and needs to see the look in your eyes when you tell him you have finally learned this lesson. 
It's not going to be easy, but then again doing the easy thing is why you are in this mess in the first place.