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Ben goes Down…

So, after weeks of speculation, an investigation that led nowhere, but made everyone involved uneasy, and a district attorney who didn’t lay charges, but continually referred to “the victim,” Ben Roethlisberger has learned his NFL fate. Commissioner Roger Goodell continued his iron fisted ways, by giving the physical quarterback six games to figure out why using his body guards to keep everyone out of a bar bathroom while he’s inside with a 20 year girl, is perhaps a dumb idea.

At first blush, this might seem extreme for what has proven not to be a crime, or at least not a crime with enough evidence to convict, but, much like when David Stern suspended Gilbert Arenas for being a moron, Goodell is suspending Roethlisberger for putting himself in a questionable position. Look, if I want to go out to a college bar, get drunk and hit on coeds, then it would be creepy and weird, but given that none of them would come near this short, chubby, balding guy in his thirties, it would ultimately be harmless. However, when a two time Super Bowl champion quarterback with the nickname Big Ben strolls into a college bar, girls, many of whom have had some sort of alcohol, notice.

From that point, there are all sorts of scenarios that can develop, almost none of which involve Ben finding the future Mrs Roethlisberger. This is the second time in two years that Ben’s nightlife has enabled his name to be connected together with the words sexual assault. Now, I’m no math najor, but I’m pretty sure that’s at least two times too many. What Goodell is essentially telling Ben is that it would be better in the future for him to drink at home. It might also be better for him not to engage in casual sex with women he doesn’t know, but that’s just me speculating…

Of course, Goodell wouldn’t care what Ben did in bars in March, if Roethlisberger didn’t also throw a football so well. Today on PTI, the great, and bald, Michael Wilbon addressed the issue by stating simply,

I don’t like Sports Leagues trying to legislate morality.

Fundamentally I agree with Wilbon, but the problem here isn’t that the NFL is trying to legislate morality, rather it’s trying to legislate image. Ben Roethlisberger is a larger than life quarterback. He’s won two Super Bowls, he’s at the very least one of the ten most famous faces in the league. And it’s just terrible publicity for Goodell to open his morning paper and see the words: NFL, Roethlisberger, Rape. It’s just bad for business.

Wilbon’s partner, Mr Tony Kornheiser, has long maintained that even though he wasn’t charged, Big Ben would be suspended because Goodell had previously suspended Adam “Pacman” Jones for violating the NFLs conduct code without being charged for a crime. TK, who knows a little something about suspensions, felt that Goodell had to show his 80% black players that there aren’t different rules for a white quarterback and a black defensive back. I think that this may have played some small part in Goodell’s decision, but it’s important to remember that the Commissioner doesn’t work for the players, he works for the owners. As a wig wearing tennis player once said, “image is everything.”

In this case, Big Ben’s image, and his superstar status, worked against him in a really expensive fashion. We’ve all had nights out where we wonder how it got so crazy, and how we spent so much money, but at over 2 million in lost salary, Ben’s night out in March has to rank up there with the worst of them, of course it’s still better than the victims’ night…

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