The world in general is a cruel place and the world of professional sports is sometimes epitome of that existence. Athletes behaving badly and fans behaving even worse has seemingly become the norm in our society. Fortunately this week there appears to be a minor disruption in that pattern as Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger graduated this weekend with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education.
Eight years after he left Miami of Ohio for the National Football League, Roethlisberger completed his final four courses and actually walked with fellow graduates in Oxford, Ohio with his wife, parents and grandparents in attendance. This won’t make headlines outside of Pittsburgh or small-town Ohio, but it has gotten attention and perhaps not surprisingly, most of it negative.
In a society that increasingly worships its’ heroes and overwhelmingly bashes its’ enemies, Roethlisberger’s accomplishment is not sitting well with many because in their eyes he is nothing more than an abuser of women. Twice Ben Roethlisberger was accused of rape and twice he was never charged. Was he in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was his immaturity too much for him to overcome? Maybe he was just putting himself in bad positions and the spoils of stardom had gone to his head. Lucky for him and for some of us, people can change and sometimes for the better.
I have no idea what it feels like to be a Super Bowl winner at the age of 24 or a two-time winner before I even hit 30. My guess is that the attention can certainly go to your head as it obviously did with Roethlisberger. I don’t know what happened during the two incidents in question any more than you do and for any of us to act as judge, jury and executioner is just plain wrong, but alas, this is what we do in America.
If Ben Roethlisberger slips up and commits some horrible act before his time on Earth is over then I will have no problem saying I was wrong about him. I believe people can change and I believe when they surround themselves with the right people that change becomes easier. My guess is that all of the people slamming Roethlisberger on social media the last 24 hours must be perfect. I’m certain they’ve never made mistakes or put themselves in a difficult position only to amend for their transgressions later in life.
I have to wonder what it must be like to be perfect because I sure as hell am not. I know Ben Roethlisberger is certainly not perfect either but that doesn’t mean he should be scolded for finishing his education. The vast majority of NFL players who leave school early never finish their educations so Roethlisberger is in the minority. That doesn’t matter to the haters who all obviously know every facet of Roethlisberger’s life and misdeeds.
My guess is the continued animosity only fueled Roethlisberger more to complete his degree and I’m sure it will fuel him on the field as well. The more I think about it, the more I’m glad that people can change for the better. I don’t know that I could handle the pressure of being as perfect some people are out there.