Used to be, when you became a star in your city, you never had to buy a drink again, or worry about what the next day’s headlines would be if you went out on a date.
In his day, Joe Namath was a deity in New York. He drank, he partied, and he went through women like a fat kid goes through a bag of M&M's.
Ben Roethlisberger was the same.
Both Namath and Roethlisberger had another thing in common. They did their job and they brought their respective cities championships.
That itself was enough reason to never write a bad story about either of them, no matter what they did in their personal lives.
Sportswriters in Namath's era were close to the team and the players. They drank with them and many of them developed close relationships. Fans adored their every move and would never think of saying a bad word towards them.
It was a fantastic time to be a star. Unless you murdered someone (insert breakfast beverage), you were untouchable.
Fast forward to today.
Not so much.
Back then, newspapers, three networks and radio ruled the world.
Today, we still have radio and newspapers, but now we have a plethora of worldwide sports & cable news networks, cell phones, the internet, bloggers, YouTube, and the paparazzi--just to name a few.
Nowadays, Ben Roethlisberger can't even go golfing without someone accusing him of a heinous act, or being guilty of association, even if the offense was something thousands of golfers do every hour on every golf course in the world.
Do you think Arnold Palmer never took a leak behind a tree ever?
There is no escaping the media today or for that matter, nebby people.
Today is a world in which we would rather make a name for ourselves, no matter what the consequences are on other people involved. Today we look forward to tearing down our stars instead of building them up. Roethlisberger, Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, and even Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise have been propped up, torn down, dragged through the mud, and then thrown to the wolves.
One was accused of rape, but NEVER CHARGED, one was cheating on his wife with a handful of women, one loves to play the game and refuses to retire, and the last one has a different religion than others and likes to jump on couches while on talk shows.
Do the names Woody Allen, Babe Ruth, Gordie Howe, and Marlon Brando ring a bell?
Allen was accused of molesting his step daughter, but never charged, Ruth was a renowned womanizer who divorced after many infidelities, Howe played in five different decades, and Marlon Brando once bought a bunch of islands in Tahiti, because he wanted to turn them into an environmental laboratory/resort for people under his new Tahitian religious ways.
All of those men mentioned are still legends in their own rights today, partly because people back then respected their privacy and personal choices, and didn't do whatever it took to keep them looked upon as guilty even though proven innocent.
Ben Roethlisberger is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL today. He, above all others, is the QB that I would want to run my offense if trailing by 4 with less than 2 minutes in the game and 80 yards to go for the go ahead score.
In his rookie season, Big Ben lead the Steelers to a 15-1 regular season record, and won one playoff game before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. (This also happened to be one of the games the Patriots were accused of illegally taping opposing team’s practices.)
For most of the entire offseason, fans and media alike went in a frenzy over whether Roethlisberger should wear gloves on his throwing hand.
In his second season, Big Ben took the Steelers to the promise land, as Pittsburgh broke a 25 year Super Bowl Championship drought by defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
In the following offseason, he was involved in a near fatal motorcycle accident in which he wasn't wearing a helmet.
Again, fans and media went bonkers in criticizing him for not wearing a helmet, even though it wasn't required by law, not because they were worried about his life, but because he was their best chance at winning more championships for the Black & Gold.
In 2008 he was accused of sexual assault by a woman who had more stories than Stephen King. No charges were filed. People generally had his back on this one. Later that year, he again led the Steelers to a record 6th Super Bowl Title by defeating the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
Then another incident exploded in April of this year down in Milledgeville, Georgia. This time Roethlisberger was accused of the most despicable of crimes towards women.
Once again, Roethlisberger was not charged of any crime, since no evidence was present to convict. Unfortunately, since it was his second accusation, the moral police showed up everywhere and became judge, jury and executioner and painted him as the guiltiest human being that ever lived this side of Hitler.
NFL fans worldwide, the sports media, and even parts of Steelers Nation wanted to see Roethlisberger punished to the full extent, suspended, and even banned from football, even though he was never charged by the law.
Soon Roger Goodell stepped in, and 'GODell' wanting to make a name for himself as NFL Commissioner and please the furious natives, suspended Roethlisberger from 4-6 games for nothing more than hearsay. (Funny, how Vince Young and Michael Vick won't be seeing any suspensions or fines for their offseason incidents.)
Thankfully, time heals all wounds and Big Ben, with the exception of a few knuckleheads, is once again hearing cheers and words of support from the media, and true fans at Steelers Training Camp.
These people who live in a fantasy world sicken me when they say pro athletes don't belong in bars or clubs, or should seclude themselves from during normal activities that you and I enjoy on a daily basis. Athletes are human just as we are. Put your moral badges away and worry about your own life, not what others are doing in theirs.
It's a dismal time to be a star in today's world. Sure, the money is great, but the glass bowl that these people live in must be unbearable at times. No wonder many athletes barricade themselves from the fans on a daily basis, I don't blame them.
I don't know about you, but I long for the days when all I cared about from my favorite players and teams was how good they were playing, instead of how many arrests they've been involved in, or what their dog had for lunch.
It's a sad society when today's stars become tomorrow's black holes over the pettiness of our culture.
Like Frank Sinatra sang though, "Some people get their kicks stomping on a dream."
Here's hoping one day we can all build on positives, instead of focusing on the negatives.
One can dream, right?