With admitted, shameless personal bias, I have never liked Ben Roethlisberger. Even though the Pittsburgh quarterback played for deceased Indiana University coach Terry Hoeppner — a man I respected immeasurably — at Miami of Ohio, I have always perceived Big Ben as a big mouth-breather.
Naturally, the second Roethlisberger was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2004, he earned a permanent spot on my excrement list. I hold the Steelers in as high regard as the George W. Bush administration. Time and time again, the franchise has benefited from some of the worst calls and no-calls in the history of professional football, but most of their fans weep and bellyache when they aren’t able to steal every big game. Like Ohio State supporters, they descend on host cities like drunken locusts, consuming all liquor in sight while profanely chirping until the final whistle.
That said, I have to credit the Terrible Towel wavers, because despite two Super Bowl victories, Roethlisberger isn’t even liked much in Pittsburgh anymore.
On Thursday, statements from Roethlisberger’s accuser in Milledgeville, Ga., to police were released. The 20-year-old female said she tried to escape the 6-foot-5 behemoth after he pulled his junk out in a hallway and cornered her in a bathroom, before raping her.
We all know pro athletes are targets for some unscrupulous women seeking a payday, and yes, Roethlisberger’s accuser was illegally intoxicated. But the multiple-source evidence suggests a serious crime was committed. Not only that, but Roethlisberger was apparently aided by two off-duty cops/bodyguards who seemingly served as rape assist men. Also, security videos were miraculously erased, and the investigating officer — who has since resigned — insulted the alleged victim and posed for pictures with Roethlisberger.
Money and clout can make a lot of things disappear, especially in hillbilly portions of the former Confederacy. In my younger days of club-hopping, patrons only used bathrooms for urinating and drug use, not forced fornication. Still, I’m sure the mafia-supported club owners I met that turned a blind eye to narcotics would happily do anything to minimize police involvement or sweep a sexual assault under the rug, especially if it meant a little payoff on the other end. Whatever happened in that stall, it is clear a cover-up or at least unfathomable neglect took place in Milledgeville.
It is possible the girl is lying, but a young college student is a lot less likely to create a self-injuring tale for cash than the predators usually guilty of that kind of deception. They are typically older, jaded cougars tired of working, not kids with their whole lives ahead of them. Because prosecutors decided not to press charges, it looks like the only people that’ll know the truth are the accuser, Roethlisberger and his henchmen. The girl has decided to take her vaginal injuries and move on, saying a trial would be “too intrusive a personal experience.”
Last year, I covered the Pittsburgh/Chicago contest in Week 2 at Soldier Field. While searching the Steelers locker room for kicker Jeff Reed, who blew the game with two late missed field goals, I came across Roethlisberger. Dressed like a sloppy trailer-park reject, Big Ben didn’t have a care in the world as he hammed it up around his noticeably dejected teammates. It confirmed all I assumed about him — that he is an aloof, functional idiot with great athletic ability. Now, since it hasn’t been proven otherwise, I’ll amend that to include “problem drinker and probable restroom rapist.”
All indications are that the Steelers have joined their fan base in being steamed at their one-time hero. A suspension is likely, but it’s unlikely to change a man who nearly killed himself on a motorcycle despite warnings and who has made an ass of himself repeatedly throughout the United States.
In the meantime, if you see a large man in Steelers gear with a slicked-back semi-mullet stumbling through your local bar … please, go the other way.