Although Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was recently cleared of sexual assault charges by the District Attorney in Ocmulgee County, Georgia, he may be facing a much tougher group of prosecutors as time goes on- the court of public opinion among Steelers fans. Slowly, but surely, I am beginning to see a chorus of voices in blogs, articles and article comments in the Pittsburgh area that are debating what the ultimate outcome of his actions should be- keep him, trade him or even cut him.
Two of the largest pro-Ben groups in the past few years have been women and children. Women wearing # 7 jerseys at Steelers games were a very common sight as they showed their support for this young handsome mega-star with millions in the bank and athletic talent to burn. I'm not a psychologist, but I think there was a good deal of post-adolescent high-school quarterback type crushes going on in the 'Burgh. Naturally, these women that had children passed this adulation on to their kids and little # 7 jerseys began springing up all over the place (my house included.) Big, strong, clean-cut and seemingly pious (if praying and gesturing to the heavens during games was any indication) who wouldn't want their little rugheads to look up to Big Ben ?
Well, hell hath no fury like a bunch of pissed off women. Big Ben's first mistake, a motorcycle crash without a helmet or motorcycle license, was passed off as unfortunate but nothing more than a youthful screw up. Strike two, sexual assault allegations in a civil suit, unnerved many of his followers but it could be dismissed, they asserted, due to the financial angle of the plaintiff and the "he said, she said" aspects of the case. Unfortunately for her, the plaintiff did not cut a very sympathetic figure. Strike three, however, was a too much for even the hardiest yinzer to bear- the creepy predatory nature of the charges, the sense of entitlement, the role of the bodyguards (one an off duty state trooper,) and the pattern of events that, unfortunately, seemed to have been practiced before. Moms who once sported pink Big Ben jerseys on their young daughters were now forced to think about their own kids being caught in the same situation.
Already, groups have begun campaigns to mail his jerseys back to the Steelers, and in some cases, fans are actually burning and disposing of them. Even Steelers fans, it seems, can only tolerate so much loutish, frat boy behavior.