Ben Roethlisberger's "Pass" Judgment

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IMarch 12, 2010

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 20: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers argues a call with back judge Perry Paganelli during the game against the Green Bay Packers on December 20, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger is facing his second sexual assault allegation after an incident at a Georgia nightclub last Friday. Is this alarming pattern of behavior a function of Roethlisberger’s immorality, or simply a product of gold-digging floozies preying on Big Ben’s fame?

Uh oh.

Did the two-time Super Bowl champion go and give somebody the "ring finger" without their consent?

Maybe, maybe not.

But something, or someone, went down that night, and hopefully, the court system will render justice. Details, like Roethlisberger’s bar-going history, and his accuser’s believability, are sketchy.

One thing is for sure—if the case goes to trial, Roethlisberger’s legal fate lies in a word he seems to not fully understand...consent.

Roethlisberger allegedly sexually assaulted a 20-year-old college student at a nightclub in the party mecca of Milledgeville, Georgia. Did Roethlisberger take advantage of a star-struck, nubile college chick, a young lady who was eager to “go pro?”

Or did she take advantage of him , using her charm and good looks to lure an easy mark into a compromising position, where the lines of consent can be easily misread and cashed in to pay off school loans?

Or, did a simple misunderstanding of the word “matriculate” transform an innocent encounter into an alcohol-fueled romp where “yes” and “no” had dual meanings? In other words, did Roethlisberger “Ben Her,” or did she “call an audible” just a smidgen too late? Was his quarterback “sneak” turned back by a “goal line” stand?

Either way, they both got more than they bargained for. And, as a second harassment claim would seemingly attest, Roethlisberger is developing a reputation as a “bargain hunter.”

On the football field, Roethlisberger is known for his quick decision-making. Sure, when he’s being pursued by 300-pound defensive lineman, Big Ben’s critical thinking skills are top notch. However, in a bar, with too much alcohol clouding his judgment and his libido, he handles “pocket pressure” in a completely different manner.

While it will be hard for authorities to ascertain fact from fiction in a case like this, this much we know is true: this is most talked-about incident of an unwanted sexual advance in Georgia since Ned Beatty was violated in Deliverance .

Unlike Roethlisberger, Beatty never put himself in such a situation again. And, unlike Beatty, Roethlisberger doesn’t have Burt Reynolds to get him out of his predicament.

It would be easy to paint a picture of Roethlisberger as guilty because this is the second such accusation against him. And I’m sure that’s what his accuser’s attorney will attempt to do, probably in civil court after criminal charges fail to stick. And it’s certain the photo of a drunken Roethlisberger in a “Drink Like A Champ” t-shirt, posing with a young lady will, like Big Ben, be making a court appearance.

Roethlisberger may be a “habitual idiot,” but that doesn’t make him a “habitual offender.”

Not yet at least.

Committing two legal acts does not constitute a habit. Committing two illegal acts? That’s not quite a habit, but is dangerously close.

Committing two illegal acts under nearly identical circumstances ? You might as well assume it will happen again, which is the very definition of a habit.

That’s assuming Roethlisberger did, or has done, anything illegal on the two occasions in which women have accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Remember, Roethlisberger has probably experienced thousands of interactions with women, in bars or elsewhere, in which one or both parties where under the influence of alcohol. Of those, only two have led to legal situations. That would give him one heck of a quarterback rating, and maybe lead one to believe that he just happened to come in contact with two women, who, for whatever reason, saw a chance, to cry foul.

Or, quite possibly, Roethlisberger, in these thousands of interactions, has mistreated or offended in some way more than two of the women, and only two have come forward to point out wrong-doing.

Maybe Roethlisberger is a deviant, and fame, money, and recognition have distorted his morals to the point that he feels he has the right to treat these women as he pleases.

Chivalry may be dead, but douchebaggery is alive and well.

Being guilty of sin is one thing; being guilty as sin is another.

Of course, Roethlisberger has yet to be convicted of anything, not in this case, nor in the 2008 assault case. I’m not sure if that statement in itself is more of an exoneration of Roethlisberger, or a condemnation.

But guilty or not, it can’t look good in a biography, and it can’t look good for sales of Roethlisberger’s No. 7 jersey.

No. 7 doesn't seem to be a lucky number for NFL quarterbacks these days.

Michael Vick went down for mistreating dogs. Now, Roethlisberger may soon face the repercussions of treating women like dogs.

Now, the very fact that this young lady has hired her own attorney lends a considerable amount of doubt to her case. I’m no lawyer, but since when do you need an attorney to simply accuse someone of a crime? You don’t, but it always helps to have professional guidance when navigating such an emotionally-draining, yet potentially fruitful court case.

I'm guessing her counsel's expertise lies not in trial law, but in negotiating settlements.

Of course, Roethlisberger felt the need to hire high-powered attorney Ed Garland, who has also defended Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis against a murder charge in 2000. Garland also defended rapper T.I. against weapons charges in 2007. In the black community, that’s called “representin.’”

T.I. went to jail, so I’m guessing Roethlisberger hopes his defense can be like the prosecution in that case and beat the "rap." Whatever the case, Big Ben’s got an attorney with rhyme and reason skills.

While hiring such a quality attorney is by no means an admission of guilt, it does seem to indicate that Roethlisberger feels he needs a top-notch barrister to extract him from this jam. And it’s apparent this will be a case in which ruining the accuser’s credibility will be the defense’s main objective, should a trial ensue.

Garland has already stated that Roethlisberger “did nothing wrong.” That sounds like a veiled statement. Roethlisberger did “something.” Whether it was wrong or not remains to be seen. Obviously, Garland’s job is to convince a jury or judge that Roethlisberger felt the accuser’s actions and words implied permission.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Roethlisberger’s affinity for partying and club-hopping. It’s only natural for a wealthy professional athlete to want to hang out with his less fortunate and eager-to-mooch acquaintances, who are no doubt there to ride the coattails of their famous friend.

When Big Ben goes out with his buddies, the drinks are on him, and apparently, so is the burden of proof. It looks as though Roethlisberger continues to say “bottoms up” long after the drinks are finished.

While charges have yet to be filed in the case, police in Milledgeville are still gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses. According to sources, police will soon be taking a DNA sample from Roethlisberger. That can’t be a good sign for Roethlisberger, which is ironic, because for years now he has been praised for his “fluid release.”

Whether he’s convicted or totally cleared of charges, Roethlisberger will be a “marked” man. Not on the football field, but in public, and especially in bars. Oh, he’ll still have his admirers. Heck, dogs love Michael Vick now.

But can Roethlisberger wear the stigma as a possible sexual deviant as well as he wears his eye black? Someone should tell Big Ben he’s not the chick magnet that he thinks he is, and let him know that magnets repel just as well as they attract.

If he’s not careful, he may find his exploits reported more often on TMZ than ESPN . If this type of behavior continues, Roethlisberger may soon see his fate in the hands of 12 jurors as opposed to 11 defenders.

He may feel he has done nothing wrong, and they may quite possibly be true, but it still should serve as a warning to clean up his act. Or, at the very least, be more careful with his act.

Big Ben has struck "two;" a third strike may very well spell the end for Roethlisberger.


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