Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Has Roethlisberger Sold His Soul?

Did Ben Roethlisberger sell his soul in exchange for the chance to sit atop the world at such a young age? Did he make a pact with the devil? Am I crazy for wondering about this?

Roethlisberger encountered success, and lots of it, faster than most athletes would ever even dream of attaining it. Fortunate enough to be drafted into a team that was already an annual contender rather than a rebuilding situation, he led the Steelers to a 15-1 record as a rookie and followed that up with a Super Bowl win last year. Off the field, he scored golfing goddess Natalie Gulbis and only God knows how many other random hotties, which is all the more amazing when you consider - and let's be honest here - he is not an extraordinarily handsome man. He even has a Fathead likeness of himself and we all know you haven't truly made it as a professional athlete until you have your own Fathead.*

Suddenly, however, Big Ben has encountered an ongoing rash of bad luck faster than a Muslim gets offended. There was the infamous crash on his motorcycle that almost took his life. There was the appendectomy. There was the bad thumb. Last night, as he was finally about to play his first meaningful game since the Super Bowl, he caught a fever that, at least according to ESPN, reached 104 degrees. (Um, wouldn't that leave him almost dead?) And how did last night's game go? Roethlisberger and the Steelers were manhandled and shutout by the Jaguars, 9-0.

Point is, if I'm Roethlisberger, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for black cats, ladders, and falling pianos. The universe seems to have turned on him in a bad way. Things really couldn't be going much worse for him, could they? In fact, it's reached the point of being downright odd and eery.

So, did Roethlisberger sell his soul for all of the rapid success he experienced? And is he now in the process of paying it all back?

Listen, we all know that the Steelers beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl courtesy of several calls that were...questionable. I won't say the calls were blatantly bad, or that the Seahawks were outright jobbed, but I will say that the Steelers should consider themselves very lucky. I still think they were the better team, but it's a shame that we'll never know how that game would have went had the referees not become such a negative and influential factor. Someone - the refs? the NFL? the football gods? the universe? - was definitely looking out for the Steelers on that day.

Perhaps it was all part of Big Ben's deal.

Sure, this all sounds absurd. But something almost otherwordly is going on here and if I'm Roethlisberger or a Steelers fan, I'm very concerned. I'm wondering real hard what exactly is going on and I'm wondering real hard where it all ends - or if it ends at all.

Me? I sense bad things in Steel City this season. When is the Devil satisfied? When does he feel one's debt has been paid? I fear Big Ben is about to find out.

(* You've seen the Fathead commercials, right? The lifesize stickers of pro athletes that can be hung on your wall? Well, a buddy of mine is a teacher at Mount Carmel High School deep on the South Side of Chicago. If you're unfamiliar with the school, it's a monumental football power here in Illinois, routinely winning state titles and coming close when it doesn't. The Caravan (as they're called) is also routinely ranked nationally and even played in a game that was televised on ESPN a couple of weeks ago. They routed fellow powerhouse Providence 30-8. The school has produced several NFL players, most notably Donovan McNabb and Simeon Rice. Anyway, my teaching buddy was contemplating purchasing a Fathead of McNabb to hang in his classroom, which is a sensible idea. After all, McNabb has been a huge success on the field and has carried himself with class off of it. You know, let the kids know he came from the same place they do. Give them something to aspire to, right? So my buddy went online to check out the price. Do you know how much those things cost? $100. No shit. One. Hundred. Dollars. What in the name of all that is holy is that about? Aren't those things essentially just big stickers? Ridiculous. For $100 I'd expect the player to personally come hang that sticker on my wall.)


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