America loves winners. Winners always get the girl. Winners beat up losers, and then defecate on their wimpy Hybrid sedan. Winners order the largest steak in the vegan restaurant and then ride the rest of the cow home to the theme from Bonanza.
Winners make money, drive fast, park in handicapped spaces, and win football games. Winners, even if they are jerks, sell tickets. It’s the reason we have to put up with Deion “Prime Time” Sanders and Michael “Premium Cut Cocaine” every Sunday on the NFL Network during football season (If that’s true, then why is Cris Carter employed?) It’s the reason people pretend to like Michael Jordan. The reason people tolerate Tiger Woods.
The problem is, even if we know it’s not true, America still chooses to believe that winners are virtuous, that the poor can some-day become rich, and the G-spot exists. In short, we love winners, we love building them up, tearing them down, and then rebuilding them.
Enter Ben Roethlisberger, elit(ist) quarterback for the hubristic Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers organization would like you to believe that somewhere between Big Ben getting drafted 11th Overall in 2004, winning two Superbowls and twice being accused of sexual assault, he abandoned the virtuous ways of “Steelers football.” The organization, and even the NFL, would have you believe that they operate with some kind of halo over them.
Just before the 2010 NFL season commenced the Steelers traded wide receiver Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets for a 5th round draft pick allegedly to “send a message” to their troubled QB. Message heard: the QB stays because he’s a winner. Holmes is a winner too, but we can get a wide receiver easier then a QB.
Big Ben also convinced NFL Commissioner Roger “Mussolini” Goodell that he had reformed his ways in the two months between his accusation of sexual assault and when training camp started, so his suspension was summarily reduced from six games to four. Lesson learned; if you’re a quarterback with two rings, you get the benefit of the doubt. Winners are always right.
So from now until Sunday, we will be treated to countless stories of how THIS Ben Roethlisberger is a changed man. A better man. He is no longer the sexual deviant, and arrogant dine-and-ditcher out of Miami of Ohio.
Why, he’s even found religion! Don’t see him praying after each game right in front of the camera! He moved his parents to Pittsburgh to be closer to him! He nurses baby calfs each morning and feeds ice cream to deer!
Hooray! Now drink my shots, bitches!
There is talk already about Roethlisberger’s changes. He won’t be interviewed for stories focused on him, but he’s reportedly engaged and word around town is he’s spending fewer nights in bars and rediscovering the religious base of his childhood.
This will all be amplified to push the narrative of Roethlisberger becoming a some sort of hero.
But, really, all that matters is that Roethlisberger — even with a sloppy two-interception game against the Jets — is playing some of the best football of his career. He ranked fifth in passer rating this season with the NFL’s second-lowest interception percentage, a unique combination of mobility and arm strength boosted by the experience of 110 NFL starts.
To be clear, Roethlisberger is not a good guy. But he’s a winner. America loves winners. Sorry, Dan Marino.