Another story about Ben Roethlisberger is in the news this week, with another woman alleging sexual misconduct by the Pittsburgh Steelers' star quarterback. Of course, Roethlisberger is innocent until proven guilty. However, in light of yet another off-field incident, one has to wonder if Big Ben's guilty of bad judgment, if nothing else.
Certainly, there have been cases of athletes being wrongly accused. There have been situations right here in central Pennsylvania where athletes, namely Penn State football players, have had charges dropped, or were even acquitted.
The lesson sports stars need to learn from Ben Roethlisberger is simple: Don't put yourself in these situations. Sure, he's a young, rich, successful quarterback with lots of free time, who admittedly likes to party. Undoubtedly, there are many women who would love to have his attention. But at some point, Ben and athletes like him need to grow up and realize that pro bowl berths and Super Bowl rings are not earned at a busy nightclub at 1 o'clock in the morning. Unfortunately, when it comes to accusations like these, you can't un-ring the bell. Ben's children and grandchildren will be able to surf the web and read about these incidents for decades to come, even if it turns out that he's completely innocent.
Roethlisberger has plenty of company - he isn't the only athlete who's made the legal brief on "Sportscenter." In fact, he's just the latest in the seemingly never-ending series of high profile court reports in sports. Tiger Woods is still trying to get out of the media spotlight for his extra-curricular antics. (In some cases, an athlete's actions warrant the media torture that ensues.)
Sports stars may argue that the average citizen would not be splashed across the newspaper or CNN if he cheated on his wife or was accused of date rape. They're probably right.
Still, athletes know there is more interest in Joe-Quarterback than the average Joe. Athletes earn millions of dollars - on the field for their talent, and off the field - for their star image. When they stray from those images, even allegedly, they hurt themselves, their families, their sports, their teams and their fans.
It's important to remember that the athletes who find themselves in trouble, or defending themselves against charges - substantiated or not - are still the vast minority. Most of the Steelers, pro golfers, and other athletes manage to live productive lives far away from the police station and district attorney's office. Many contribute to their communities in positive ways that deserve, even if they don't receive, newspaper headlines.
We just have to hope, for the sake of all of us who look up to our sports heroes, that the talent of a champion isn't attached to the character of a loser.
Kellie Goodman can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.com. Her column appears on Tuesdays.