My wife loves the Oscars. I mean really loves the Oscars. She breaks out the wine, buys a bunch of snacky snacks and gets all cozy to watch a bunch of people walk down an aisle in dresses she could never afford and look important. That is pretty much how I feel about the NFL Draft. I mean just substitute out the wine with a cold Killian and it's pretty close to the same thing.
Yet on the eve of my favorite spring time event, I wasn't talking about my mock draft with my friends, or listening to my favorite sports talk show make their predictions about who will do what and when. Nope, instead I was talking and hearing all day about this putz:
If you don't know by now then I'll be happy to fill you in. On Wednesday, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the National Football League, handed down a six game suspension without pay to embattled Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, for his misconduct during his recent sexual assault allegations in Georgia. I say recent because this is not the first time that Big Ben has found himself being accused of attacking a woman. He faced similar allegations in 2008 while at a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada. Those too were never brought to fruition, but caused a lot of embarrassment for the Steelers and the NFL, respectively.
The focus of intent for this article though isn't around the deplorable behaviors of a twenty eight year old child, that just happens to be able to throw and scramble with a football really well. What really moved me to write on this was actually a conversation that I was having with my wife about the Goodell ruling. We had just gotten home from work when she turned to me:
"So what happened to Roethlisberger?" She asked.
"Goodell laid into him. He got suspended for six games, maybe four if he gets help and follows all of these rules, but if he so much as thinks of screwing up again he will get more than that." I explained.
"Why?" She asked. I was a little taken by this actually. I mean I wasn't expecting that at all in the slightest. I was counting on "Good" or "Serves him right", but not "Why?".
"What do you mean?" I asked, obviously confused.
"Well he didn't get charged right? So why is he being punished by the NFL?"
Fair question. I had to think on it a minute. Then I remembered a quote that Goodell made back when he first took over as Commissioner, "I will do whatever it takes to protect the shield" he said. He was referring to of course the staggering rise of off the field player arrests and lawsuits. I remembered thinking to myself when he first said it, that it was probably the smartest, yet most difficult thing to pull off in this kind of league. I mean you don't pay guys millions of dollars to not play because of something they did off the field, do you? Well yes as a matter of fact, you do.
Roger Goodell is a smart businessman. He understands a very simple truth, one that I have stated a bunch of times on here as well, your brand is everything! No one person is more important that the strength and viability of the entire organization. In other words, if you want to play this game on the field, you better walk the line off it too, because there are a bunch of little kids that adore you, look up to you and beg their parents to buy your jerseys.
"I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you," Goodell wrote to Roethlisberger. "My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans."
Those are some very harsh words to receive, but they are also dead on accurate. Not only will Roethlisberger miss the first six games of this season, but his name and personal brand is crap right now. The Steelers have even started to call around the league to see if there is a potential trade before the draft begins. As of this report, three out of the seven reached said no thanks. Mind you these aren't good teams either, but still they would rather suck some more than have that kind of baggage. It doesn't matter that he is a two time Super Bowl Champion, nobody wants to have to explain to their fans why they are going for a guy with these kind of ethics.
Sorry Big Ben, but your clock is running a little slow these days. My advice, get some help, stay in on Friday night, stop watching Boogie Nights and thinking that it's your life story and, oh yeah, grow the hell up!
Well needless to say, I will still be perched in front of my TV watching the draft in prime time for the first time ever. I'm excited too, even with all the drama, because I know that I have a guy running the league that I love who cares about it as much as I do. He proved it to me. He protected the shield.
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Until Next Time....