Beyond the Boxscore
Impossible to feel sorry for Ben Roethlisberger; Hard not to appreciate H-TownDriver
Feeling sorry for Ben Roethlisberger is one of those statements that sound ridiculous even before it escapes your mouth. Like contributing to a fund that will teach Christina Aguilera the words to "The Star Spangled Banner." Or watching an entire episode of Glee.
Sure, Roethlisberger looked like a sick puppy after losing Super Bowl XLV. He even shaved his playoff beard — maybe even before Aaron Rodgers managed to make it off the field. Sure, Big Ben said all the right things, not daring to blame any of the little people for the six-point defeat.
Roethlisberger played the part of the heartbroken big-game loser as well as anyone ever has. He threw the blame on himself with the same zeal that someone trying to pitch water out of a canoe would fling it over the side. Big Ben wanted that blame — and he really wanted you to know that. He truly "hates to lose." And well ... he never walked away from the Steelers like Aaron Brooks ran from the Rockets. There's no Scottie Pippen in this quarterback.
The noble loser is as much a part of sports lore as the Joe Montanas of football. And often, they're much more interesting. After all, almost anyone can be charming when all the confetti in the world's falling his way.
So why did Roethlisberger's pain ring so unmoving in the aftermath of Super Bowl XLV?
It'd be easy to say because it seemed like an act, like a man saying exactly what he knows he's supposed to say. But who can say for sure when someone is being less than true? And even if Big Ben was acting, his try at the craft certainly wasn't any more disingenuous than Rodgers' claim that he "never felt that there was a monkey" on his back.
Even some of Rodgers' own grateful teammates couldn't agree with that dismissal of the Brett Favre-shaking ways of Packers 31, Steelers 25.
Could the stomach-sickening details in that police report from Georgia — from the second time Roethlisberger's been accused, but not charged, with sexual assault — make it impossible to not delight in any Roethlisberger torment? However small scale in comparison. Maybe for some, but if you're going to bring morality into professional sports, there are a number of characters who should be lining up right behind the Steelers quarterback to get some vile too.
This isn't the first athlete — or business leader — who's allegedly used his power and his goons to make a woman do something she didn't want to and gotten away with it. Sad as it may be, that doesn't appear to hound Roethlisberger either. Jeremy Piven, aka Ari Gold of Entourage, was about the only one who noticeably called Roethlisberger "Rapist-berger" Super Bowl week. And Piven did it, not ever expecting Roethlisberger to hear it. Piven would also probably be among the first to admit he wouldn't be doing it if Big Ben played for his beloved Chicago Bears.
No, what this lack of any Super sympathy for Roethlisberger, outside of some Steelers fans, comes down to is that he's already won more than he should have. This is the same reason that the so many elite NFL quarterbacks past seemed to be pulling for Rodgers over Roethlisberger.
Big Ben's played in three Super Bowl's now and he's been absolutely horrific in one (Roethlisberger played worse in Super Bowl XL than Steve Grogan did in that 46-10 loss to the '85 Bears — really, look it up), mediocre to middling in one (Sunday's nights, two-interception, throwing-higher-than-Randy-Johnson-on-the-last-drive-of-the-game affair) and good in one (the 27-23 last drive win over a Cardinals team with an unimpressive defense). He's the definition of an ordinary quarterback.
Wide receivers won the MVP in Roethlisberger's two Super Bowl Ws. And they should have. Both Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes bailed Roethlisberger out. On the other hand, even on a night when Jordy Nelson caught nine passes for 140 yards, can you imagine anyone other than Rodgers being named MVP? There would have been an outcry and the NFL's version of the Mitchell Investigation.
So when Roethlisberger lets out, "I hate to lose. It hurts even more when you feel like you're the one letting guys down who stepped up in a big way," it's compelling. But not exactly moving.
You want moving? You'll have to move on — and not to Alex Rodriguez, who really should have learned to stay away from Texas by now, getting fed popcorn by Cameron Diaz among all the other mega-rich people Jerry Jones found seats for on a night when 400 regular fans with tickets were left standing in the cold.
For that, the gaze must settle on Donald Driver, out of Houston's Milby High and a childhood in which he admits he sold drugs and stole cars for a time to help survive. After 12 seasons, the 36-year-old Driver finally found himself in a Super Bowl, making big plays ... and then, his ankle turned. Driver would spend most of the second quarter and the whole second half sidelined, but that didn't stop him from meeting Greg Jennings there after the Packers wideout made the biggest play of the fourth quarter.
It couldn't prevent him for bringing his family out onto the field as the confetti fell from even higher than Jerry World's supersized scoreboard.
"I'm just glad my family can enjoy it with me," Driver says. "Now I can say that I'm a Super Bowl champion. It's a blessing. Now, you can say you're part of that history, that greatness."
Hobbled safety Charles Woodson's inspirational halftime talk is getting much more publicity, but Driver's influence shouldn't go unnoticed. Even as Jennings, Jordy and even James Jones made big catches, they'd come over to their receiver leader and tell him they were winning this game for his old ass.
"Guy has been in Green Bay forever," Jennings says. "And he goes down ... He's been here for 45 years I think. Donald Driver."
There is your Hoosiers moment in a thoroughly messed up Super Bowl week. As for Big Ben's lament?
"This was a game of what ifs," Roethlisberger says. "We turned the ball over. That's my fault."
Sorry, still no sympathy coming. Ben Roethlisberger deserved to be kicked in the balls.
For so many reasons.