View Full Version : Kriegel: Steelers 'bad boys' a headache, and boon for NFL

02-03-2011, 01:21 PM
Mark Kriegel is the national columnist for FOXSports.com. He is the author of two New York Times best sellers, Namath: A Biography and Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich, which Sports Illustrated called "the best sports biography of the year."


Each Super Bowl has its designated Bad Guys, and this vintage of the Pittsburgh Steelers has at least two. But with Ben Roethlisberger on best behavior, the quarterback finds himself on the cusp of a most curious redemption. This could only happen in the NFL. To win a Super Bowl is to be forgiven.

Roethlisberger, accused of several sexual misdeeds, needs only to keep playing the part: humbled and contrite, older and wiser. Maybe he’ll even get his beef jerky deal back.

More interesting, entirely unrepentant and infinitely more admirable, however, is the Steelers’ other villain, outside linebacker James Harrison. He doesn’t care if you like him. In fact, he probably prefers that you fear him, especially if you’re an opponent. He doesn’t need any friends, certainly not outside his own locker room, and definitely doesn’t need any endorsements.

Harrison began Media Day — an exercise in commerce disguised as journalism — more than ten minutes late to his interview podium. Then he made a very conspicuous show, of sweeping all Gatorade products from the podium before taking his seat. All that was left was the Steelers cap and a microphone.

“That’s all I need,” he said.

I have nothing against Gatorade. But I almost wanted to applaud. There was something righteous in Harrison’s contempt. Pimpin’ ain’t easy, the saying goes, unless you’re the NFL. But Harrison wasn’t going to let the league make another dollar off him.

Rewind to October 17. That Sunday saw at least four spectacularly concussive hits delivered in HD. Two of them were administered by Harrison, helmet-first KOs of Browns’ receiver Muhammad Massaquoi and running back Joshua Cribbs. Though neither play drew a flag, Harrison was called into the commissioner’s office (“a waste of time,” he called it) and fined $75,000 (later reduced to $50,000) for his day’s work.

“They were looking for a poster boy to implement their rule,” Harrison says of Roger Goodell’s anti-concussion posse. “And they just chose me.”

Poster boy. It’s a demeaning term. And James Harrison, whatever his faults, doesn’t want to be demeaned. Nor does he want to sell Gatorade on behalf of a league that fined him a total of $100,000 this season.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pro-concussion. I applaud Goodell’s efforts here. I don’t care if the players have to wear helmets that make them look like the Jack in the Box mascot. If it makes the game safer, it makes the game better. Just the same, football has always been and always will be a brutal game. The NFL didn’t change the rules, or more accurately, start enforcing them because they cared about the players. They changed because they got busted, largely due to the efforts of New York Times reporter Alan Schwarz.

So, yes, after years of denying that pro football had a concussion problem, Harrison served as a very convenient poster boy. He was sullen, unapologetic, and despite what he says, had a reputation as a headhunter. But in this Super Bowl week, amid all the talk of owners locking out players just a month from now, he has also managed to reframe the debate, turning a health and safety issue into a hypocrisy issue.

The NFL doesn’t really care about Muhammad Massaquoi any more than it cares about James Harrison. It cares about Gatorade. “The league does what it needs to do to make more money,” he said.

What about concussions? Harrison was asked.

“I’m not worried about that,” he said, adding that those he’s sustained were “never bad enough to come out” of a game. “If you don’t tell, they don’t know – unless you get knocked out with your arms straight up in the air.”

That’s the mindset the league – and the union - must eventually break. In the meantime, though, players are left to feel that the NFL just doesn’t get it. The game is popular because of the speed and the violence with which it is played. That’s what the fans like. That’s how the players were taught.

“You can change the way you decide to hit someone if you have time,” said Harrison. “But it happens so fast … Our defense plays 1,000 miles an hour.”

That’s why they’re in the Super Bowl, of course, where Harrison has become an unlikely rallying point for the Steelers, and just maybe, for the NFLPA’s rank and file.

“It definitely brought us closer together,” Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior, said of Harrison’s fines. “Like everybody was against us.”

Hines Ward points out that the day after Harrison laid out Cribbs and Massaquoi, the NFL was selling his image on its website. “First they take money from him,” he said, “then they try to make money off him.”

And a couple more regular season games. The league wants those, too.

Ward has every right to be offended. But not shocked. The NFL has been doing this for years: making money off the bad guys.

02-03-2011, 05:35 PM
he made a very conspicuous show, of sweeping all Gatorade products from the podium before taking his seat. All that was left was the Steelers cap and a microphone.

“That’s all I need,” he said.

I have nothing against Gatorade. But I almost wanted to applaud. There was something righteous in Harrison’s contempt. Pimpin’ ain’t easy, the saying goes, unless you’re the NFL. But Harrison wasn’t going to let the league make another dollar off him.

God I love that man.....:lol:

02-03-2011, 07:59 PM
Few brilliant quotes in there. The writer is right, Harrison with all the contempt he has for everything as a bad boy is so much more admirable than Big Ben.

02-03-2011, 09:31 PM
Poster boy. It’s a demeaning term. And James Harrison, whatever his faults, doesn’t want to be demeaned. Nor does he want to sell Gatorade on behalf of a league that fined him a total of $100,000 this season.

He is refreshing. This is the same league that wants to sell pictures of him making that hit to make money. I think the NFL Office and the logic they apply is laughable. That is what gets under the skin of the players. Enjoy the SB game, because here comes a long work stoppage.

3 more sleeps.

02-03-2011, 11:00 PM
I adore James. I think he's really misunderstood though.

02-03-2011, 11:56 PM
being a miami heat fan (not a bandwagon one) I am used to my teams getting bashed and made to look bad every chance possible. The steelers just gotta embrace the role of the villain a la Lebron James. Just keep on doing their thing which is winning and if their gonna be made to look like bad guys then so be it.

02-04-2011, 02:28 AM
Questions Linger About Steelers QB's Marketability
DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer
POSTED: 4:08 pm EST February 3, 2011
UPDATED: 4:22 pm EST February 3, 2011
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Comments (3)Images: Questions Linger About Steelers QB's Marketability
NEW YORK -- By Sunday night, Ben Roethlisberger could be in rarefied company as a three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

Yet even if he joins the likes of superstar Tom Brady and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, marketing experts say the Steelers QB probably won't overcome his off-the-field notoriety - including two sexual assault accusations - and pick up the flurry of endorsements NFL champs typically enjoy.

"You don't build back trust with a one-game performance, even if it's the Super Bowl," said Bill Glenn, senior vice president of the Dallas-based sports-business firm The Marketing Arm. "I'd be surprised if there's a long line outside his agent's office even if he wins MVP."

Roethlisberger has had a minimal presence in advertising since he was accused in March of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student - the second time since 2008 that he faced assault allegations. Georgia authorities declined to bring charges, but he received a four-game suspension at the start of this season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

His sturdy play since his return, particularly in the playoffs, has won back the hearts of some Pittsburgh fans who had soured on him. But nationally, according to marketing experts, his image remains tarnished, and he needs more time to rehabilitate it.

"The best thing Mr. Roethlisberger can do is have a very quiet week off the field and a very loud week on the field," said Kevin Adler, CEO of the Chicago-based sports consulting firm Engage Marketing.

Even with a championship, Adler said, "there's a significant percentage of corporate America that would a still be a little gun-shy.

"But with good game and a quiet offseason, there's an opportunity to develop a maturation of his brand in the future."

The challenge facing Roethlisberger is starkly illustrated in the so-called N-Scores which the Nielsen Co. compiles to rate athletes' endorsement potential based on their appeal, name recognition and other factors. His score has plummeted from above 140 in 2008 to 24 in the wake of the assault cases; by comparison, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers' score is 39 and Peyton Manning's is 262.

A comparable rating system run by The Marketing Arm - the Davie Brown Index - shows Rodgers ahead of Roethlisberger in endorsement potential and trust, even though the Steeler star is better known.

Chris Anderson, a Marketing Arm spokesman, said Roethlisberger's trust levels were on par with celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Allen Iverson and Kim Kardashian.

John Sweeney, a professor of sports communication at the University of North Carolina's School of Journalism, noted that Roethlisberger - even pre-scandal - was never in Manning's league as a pitchman.

He won deals to represent a barbecue sauce, a Pittsburgh auto dealership and a beef jerky brand, although that company dropped him last year. He also remains on the roster of athletes signed by Nike to wear its gear, although Nike confirmed it hasn't used him in recent advertisements.

"When people talk about marketability with Ben, how far is he going to fall anyway?" Sweeney asked. "He's not a huge player in the huge sponsorship market, so there's not as much that's threatened."

Sometimes, there's a marketing niche for athletes with edgy reputations.

Rick Burton, a former chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee and now a sports marketing professor at Syracuse, cited the NBA's quirky Dennis Rodman and hot-tempered former soccer star Eric Cantona as examples.

"These athletes with controversial images sometimes end up in demand because they have the capacity to break through the clutter," Burton said. "But I don't think Roethlisberger wants to be an anti-hero. ... I don't think he wants to go down the 'bad boy' route."

Burton suggested the Steelers quarterback may have different advantage.

"He actually may be more affordable, because he's in recovery mode, recovering his brand, his reputation," Burton said. "Companies may look at him as a lot cheaper than if Peyton Manning was winning the Super Bowl."

Roethlisberger himself, during the run-up to Sunday's game, has tried to deflect talk about his suspension and off-field problems.

"I want to be the guy people look up to," he told reporters in Dallas. "I want to be that kind of husband, father and grandfather someday if I am lucky enough."

Say what he will, the spotlight stays on him. A video of his outing Tuesday night, at which he treated his offensive linemen to dinner and drinks at a barbecue place and (badly) sang Billy Joel's "Piano Man" tore up the Web on Thursday.

Roethlisberger's agent, Ryan Tollner, didn't respond to a request for comment on the marketability issue, made through his firm, Irvine, Calif.-based Rep 1 Sports Group.

The firm's website says the marketing portfolio assembled by Tollner for Roethlisberger "generates millions of dollars per year, with creative deals such as Big Ben's BBQ Sauces, Big Ben's Beef Jerky, a T-shirt campaign, memorabilia arrangement and profitable website."

Among the NFL's legion of female fans, many aren't yet ready to give Roethlisberger a clean slate.

"I don't care if he scores seven touchdowns - he doesn't deserve a single endorsement," said Erin Matson, a vice president of the National Organization for Women. "If companies were to partner with him as a result of this game, they would see an enormous backlash."

Anna Holmes, a sports fan who founded the women's-interest website Jezebel.com, said she was unsure she would even watch the Super Bowl because of Roethlisberger.

"There would be a bad taste in my mouth to seeing him on the screen," she said.

A die-hard Chicago Bears fan, writer Veronica Arreola, said she wouldn't even pick Roethlisberger for her fantasy team.

"I don't think on-the-field performance redeems off-the-field behavior," she said. "As a feminist and a mom, I would never buy a Roethlisberger jersey or anything for my daughter. ... He has not come off as remorseful at all."

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I know this has been rubbed in the mud alot. and this here is a whole different post in then the rest (i hope, im not going through them all to see if it is.) Ok a little run-down.
Ben is accused of rape twice and yet no charges were filed on either charge. So exactly what is ben guilty of? going to a club and having a good time, the last time i checked going to a club is not rape. they say there is not enough evidence to charge him. according to the law the absence of proof eliminates guilt.. hmm (if he did then that woman should still be pressing on and not have just dropped it all) who says that this woman just didn't see her opprotunity for her 15 mins of fame..and accused. (i still believe that ben didn't give her the time of day cause she was nasty. and she got all butt hurt. so what better way to get back at him) and even a chance to get money from a lie.) anyhow, no proof. and yet his name is still tarnished. he did not go to prison like other atheletes, and whatever happend to ray lewis, he was up for murder. and he was found guilty of obstruction of justice. but unless your a steeler fan, it is never brought up... hell he's NFL's poster boy for defense. and is very very marketable. even after that charge. So what does ben have to do to regain his innocence. have these two women come out and say they lied, yea that's going to happen. I know this sunday 7i am wearing by #7 jersey with pride. and ben has my full support. deep down i know he just a victim of ignornace. i just hate here he is going on his 3rd ring and no freaken respect. Go Ben and Go steelers. and administrators if there is another silmilar posting i apolgize but please don't move it...lol thanks

02-04-2011, 07:42 AM
That argument has nothing to do with law. It addresses public perception, and money. If I am a company, I am not going to hire a figure to represent my product and spend millions of dollars doing so if his public image is not of acceptable status. I don't think you would either.

02-04-2011, 09:35 AM
actually it has everything to do with the law cause we are degrading someone because of a "crime" that was not proven. Ben is being punished because of something that ultimatly is out of his control given he didn't do it. Say it's you and your working for a big corporate buisness. Some opposite gender comes forth and says you raped her and here you know you didn't do it or can not be proven of it. and because of this negative image you get fired or don't get the promotion. I'm sorry stuff like rape, should be kept out of the media. until they are proven guilty. because the backlash behind it for the innocent victims. it irreaparable damage. ben is losing out on millions of dollars of possible endorsments has lost a good percent of the female fan base because of accusations that was not deemed to guilt. so it has to do with the law completly.

02-04-2011, 10:32 AM
I just met a guy here that used to run around with James and said when they hung around toghther he was one hell of a nice guy, never said anything just sat around and watched everyone mess around,very quiet. He also told me a couple stories about him that I wouldn't want to post anywhere just for the simple fact people would run with it but one thing I didn't know was that he played running back in high school and that he was probably just as big then as he is now, manchild in school.

Small world

Just went to Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Harrison_(American_football)
to confirm this and seen that James was a very interesting kid in high school, no wonder they call him Debol LOL

02-04-2011, 11:17 AM
Harrison is the definition of a beast in today's NFL. I am always happy to see him as a Steeler because him being on the field always translates to a great shot at a win.