Eighteen months ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were down by three points against the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl with just about two minutes left. A holding penalty had pinned the Steelers back to the five-yard line.
Ben Roethlisberger's team was down three, and time after time during an almost legendary drive, he got out of trouble by scrambling, throwing scrappy throws, and steadily moving his team down the field. He ended the drive by throwing a beautiful pass over three outstretched defenders to Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone. The Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl.
It was something out of football myth. Something only Joe Montana could do. Only Tom Brady could do. Only Peyton Manning could do. It seemed at the time, with two Super Bowls on his resume, that "Big Ben" had joined them. Not only that, he had earned the right to be mentioned with them.
That was 18 months ago.
Brady, Manning, and a Would-Be Icon
He wasn't as clean cut as Peyton.
He wasn't as cool as Tom.
He didn't get the endorsements Manning got.
He didn't get the girls Brady got.
What hurt most was that he didn't get close to the respect they did. Ben had won two Super Bowls, as the quarterback and leader of the Steelers. He had proven over six years that he was as talented at winning big games as those guys.
How much it played on his mind when supposedly mistreating women is up in the air. How much of it is his fault is also up in the air. What was his reputation is in complete tatters in America and Pittsburgh.
Not the Prodigal Polished Perfect Hero
The chances of Ben Roethlisberger ever reaching the Brady-Manning hallowed air that he craved are now zero. The problem was that Ben was trying to be something he wasn't.
The only way forward for Ben is to look inside and be himself. There is one guy Ben's story has more in common with than any other person or athlete or character, Kenny Powers.
If you do not know Kenny Powers, he is a baseball player from the HBO show Eastbound and Down, who like Ben fell from grace. But the most endearing thing is that this disgusting character is true to himself.
The Swashbuckling Outlaw, Back To Fight Again
Ben Roethlisberger's return to football coincides with Kenny Powers' return to baseball. Kenny did it by staying true to himself
The only way forward for Big Ben is to find his inner Kenny Powers. It shouldn't be hard, as they sound and look almost completely identical. But the more important thing is the inner attitude. Ben should come out to himself and realize that he is not the one.
So as Big Ben attempts his comeback, he should know by reaching his bottom that he is not the prodigal polished perfect hero. He is the swashbuckling outlaw, back to fight again.
If he realizes it, he'll gain the iconic status he craved by giving the outlaws-at-heart in America another hero, and he and Kenny Powers can welcome them to the resistance.