Goodbye, Ben Roethlisberger.
Even if you're not traded, it's still goodbye. I'm done with you.
That six game suspension isn't overly harsh. I'm not sure that any suspsension wouldn't have been too harsh. Okay, so you were never charged with a crime or arrested. But, like so many Steeler fanslike so many Americans I can read between the lines.
You had the Nevada case won, with the accusers own e-mails in your favor. But, with that case still hanging in the balance, with the support of I and other Steeler fans, you go andif guilty of merely none other than putting yourself in such a situation do something so incredibly stupid that it defies comprehension.
Michael Irvin won a civil case for "invasion of privacy;" but, there he was on video tape with a bag of cocaine in his lap, talking to a young boy through the car window, bragging "Little Man knows" about his supposed innocence. No matter how that video was obtained, in my book he will always be guilty.
Michael Vick may not have started it, but he got involved in a situation with dog-fighting and then lied to cover his involvement. At least he paid his debt to society and is making amends for his actions.
But, after the D.A. announced that he would not file charges in Georgia only because he wasn't sure he could get a conviction, you stand there and say "I know the right decision was made." The following day, we read the disgusting and heinous accounts of the accuser. It was stomach-turning.
You became, at that point, Michael Irvin. The only difference was that you seem to have intently set up a situation to cover your actions, whereas Michael Irvin was just out doing, without fear of covering up. I don't know which is worse.
The irony of hiring Ray Lewis' attorney? That was rich. The morning after the allegations, when that news broke, I suspected there was plenty of fire under the smoke.
It hurts to think of six years ago, your rookie season and a trip to Dallas. You and Natalie Gulbis were at the hotel elevator, and you signed and took a photo with my daughter and son, then 11 and 7, respectively. They thought you were a hero; I thought you were a helluva guy. I was honored that you were a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That picture has hung on my son's bedroom wall ever since. He has proudly worn your jersey and lived and died with your actions on the field.
"Dad, I can't wear my Roethlisberger jersey anymore," he said to me last week, apparently much sager at the grand old age of 13.
Imagine how my daughter must feel, standing there joyously smiling next to a man that turned out to be accused of sexual assault on multiple occasions. Imagine how I feel looking at that picture.
Charles Barkley and his infamous Nike I'm-not-a-role-model be damned, you stepped on him. You stepped on every kid, man and woman that supported you. As the Bible states, to whom much is given, much is expected.
You betrayed our trust. You never considered the embarrassment you caused Steeler fans, nor the commitment you have to somebody that spends their hard-earned money to promote you and inflate your value on and off the field. Not to mention the complete lack of respect for the Steeler franchise, the Rooney family, your teammates, the Pittsburgh community, your own family or even your own legacy.
And it's not just the Georgia situation. There are plenty of other reasons, plenty of other allegations, rumors of just being a non-descent citizen even at restaurants, the forsaking of any responsibility to your team or anybody else.
And I just wish you could have heard the woman on the national radio sports show Wednesday night. Before the end of the call, she broke down in tears at the thought of you staying in the 'Burgh. "How could I remain a Steelers fan?!"
I hope it was good for you. Now, thanks to you, even the past isn't good for many of us anymore.
Should you remain a Steeler, I will never forget. I'll never cheer you, nor defend you again. Worse, I can't even be totally comfortable cheering and supporting the team that I have followed for decades, the team that I considered to be a model franchise that wanted to win but insisted first on doing it the right way.
If you stay, that foundation of belief and pride has a major crack.
If you go, that foundation stays intact.
It would not be easy to see you in another uniform. It would not be easy to have to likely write off a season or two, to not be at the top of the standings, to have to wait for Super Bowl title No. 7 for possibly several years.
But, if that's the way it has to be, I can live with that. Most Steeler fans can. We'll root for Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon, live with their limitations and inconsistencies, but revel in their character.
And, the Steelers will set the example that some things are more important than winning.
There were two Super Bowls, big money, the admiration of a community and the Steeler nation. Oh, what more could have been?
Goodbye, Ben. We never really knew you then. Now, we know all too much. Too much to forget.