Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ben Roethlisberger Joshing at Media Day Illustrate Different Man

ARLINGTON, Texas--As he rested calmly at a table inside Cowboys Stadium surrounded by cameras and swarms of reporters intrigued to talk with the media, Ben Roethlisberger viewed the scene with a relaxed stare, and noticed he had directly borrowed all attention on Media Day for Super Bowl XLV—the wildest circus where reporters are allowed to ask players most bizarre or convenient things.

It didn't come as a surprise when Roethlisberger was named the featured athlete—one of professional sports' most headstrong daredevils. He just might be one of the most reckless, daring quarterbacks any one could ever imagine. Regularly comfortable with risking his body, he almost jeopardized his career when his head was slammed to the turf as he got sandwiched between a pair of defenders a few seasons ago. Big Ben seems like a superhuman or a robot, capable of enduring any daunting task—mechanically-built to defy the laws of fortitude and firmness.

We can only consider that a proud, character-oriented, hard-driven franchise like the Pittsburgh Steelers are very content with his drastic turnaround and recent displays of maturity and humbleness. He is, without question, a changed man—ready to pursue and capture his third Super Bowl title with the Steelers, a brand-name franchise that has allowed Roethlisberger ample opportunities to behave like a decent human being; not a hideous criminal with the potential to sabotage the class of a franchise symbolized to articulate dignity and civility.

The Super Bowl is approaching rapidly, and for a moment we glance at the Steelers, who will become America's Team if Pittsburgh takes home another Lombardi Trophy. For a change, Roethlisberger tried not to reflect on the heinous past, but was humorous and playful, joshing with the media. He even seemed to take pleasure in his hour of interrogation. At the end of the session, he smiled widely, counted down the last seven seconds of media availability and walked off the stage.

Being in front of thousands of reporters and media outlets, he handled the scrutiny, publicity and anxiety with maturity and class. Soon enough, he'll be forgiven of his wrongdoings, earning his shot of redemption on the national stage. It won't take long—not if he's staying out of trouble and avoiding college campuses and college girls—for Roethlisberger to wholeheartedly become a different man, unlike when he was a careless and adolescent fool.

Over the last two days, he dealt with the adversity and criticism. Today, he was talkative with the media, joking, laughing and smiling. You could tell he was at ease, as Roethlisberger shot video with his cellphone as he arrived to the podium, while being bombarded with questions from the media.

"I'm very close with a lot of the guys," said Roethlisberger. "One of my best friends is sitting over there next to me. I knew that I always had—there was a big group of guys I always had their support. There were just a couple that I wasn't as close to as I wanted to be and needed to be and I have really worked hard to be closer with and be a better teammate with."

He needed to mature and repair an image, blemished since now being twice-accused of sexual assault. In doing so, he will clear his name of guilt and stupidity for slip-ups, which almost destroyed his great reputation—clearly the savior for the Steelers in a pair of championships.

With a win, given the multiple titles he won in his incredible career, he will earn his rightful place in the company of NFL history's great Quarterbacks with the likes of Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman. He is on the verge of leading the Steelers franchise to an unprecedented accomplishment—wining their seventh championship. The tenacious Steelers, decorated with six Super Bowl titles, are on the verge of an impressive three championships in the past six seasons.

"I'm not pretty when I play the game," said Roethlisberger. I'll be the first to admit it, but I don't try to be. When I say these things, I'm not trying to knock on any of those guys. I've said they're the best. I just play the game to win it. Like I said, I'll probably never ever win a passing title. I'll probably never win MVP of the NFL and I'm okay with that. Really, I am. People may think I'm crazy, but to me at the end of the day it's about wins and losses and championships."

For the first time all season, it seemed Roethlisberger was capable to handle any predicament. With a win, maybe he could earn back his endorsement deal with a Pittsburgh company that markets food products after it had dropped because of his unlawful accusations of sexual assault, although he was never charged in either case.

If he leads the Steelers to glory again, in a couple of months, you could see his face on beef jerky bags in Giant Eagle supermarkets. The point is, no matter what the nay-sayers think of Roethlisberger's legal troubles and allegations in the past, he's a beloved superstar in an enthusiastic football region that culturally worships the sport each week.

In recent years, the Terrible Towels exist by virtue of the fraternity of delirious supporters in a town where Big Ben has repossessed his respective nickname. He has sincerely made an effort to use great judgment and has regained the respect of the Steelers ownership, teammates and fans.

He has finally stopped partying, drinking too much and manipulating women.

That's what we want to believe with Roethlisberger. That is what he wants us to believe, and we should take his word for it. He is easily either the most despised athlete or the most admired, given that not all have forgiven him for his poor judgment.

The moment now is for America to become a country of forgiveness. No, we don't have to forget about the gruesome allegations, but the bitter folks can lose the animosity and forget about the past. To his credit, he's an iconic hero, despite his off-the-field misconduct.

The most troubling incident happened last April, when a 21-year old college student filed a sexual assault complaint, but the prosecutor couldn't garner enough evidence to prove that Roethlisberger was guilty of trapping a woman in the bathroom in the small town of Milledgeville, Ga. No matter how he is described among those who dislike him, this turns out to be a redemptive tale in which he enriches his likability as an individual and player.

The star of Super Bowl Media Day wasn't Aaron Rodgers or Troy Polamalu.

When Roethlisberger arrived so calmly, everybody crowded around, and treated him as if he was the superhero in sports. It really would be something beautiful if Roethlisberger could orchestrate another compelling drive as the final minutes trickle down in the Super Bowl and deliver a game-winning pass to one of his prolific receivers. This wouldn't just refresh the memory of the breathtaking finish two years ago, but add to the incredible history of indelible Super Bowl moments.

The storyline is that Big Ben has redeemed himself, and once again, is every bit as popular as London's historic clock. He is considered an elite quarterback in the NFL, filled with much promise in the near future as long as he stays out of trouble. Without a doubt, come Sunday, it won't be a surprise to hear him cheered by thousands, and see thousands more donning his No. 7 jersey.

Never mind that he served a four-game suspension to begin the season, because the gritty Steelers are contrived to survive off their defensive principles. Never mind that he was a distraction, instead it just brought the Steelers closer and made his teammates stronger—instilling the importance of unity and spirit.

With that, the Steelers bonded together and compiled victories to qualify for the postseason, and dominated in the playoffs with urgency, mental toughness and a boisterous defense led by legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

And so after all the adversity and tribulations—disturbing episodes that almost ruined not only his profession as an NFL quarterback but his life in general, Roethlisberger has recovered from his downfall. Finally, there is much kindness within Roethlisberger, living his life differently and rightfully—realizing how close he came to blowing his eight-year, $102 million contract.

"It's such a blessing, that's where the inner peace starts is with your faith, with my faith—like I said, by counting my blessings, because every day is a blessing to be alive and a blessing to do this," said Roethlisberger. "To have forgiveness, the ultimate forgiveness, to pray—that was my main thing, talking to God, reading the before I came up here."

From here, we can infer that Roethlisberger very much appreciates and admires the game. I guess it's a blessing. God bless Big Ben.