But I haven't. Every time I watch a game, my stomach turns when the camera zooms in on Roethlisberger grinning or pumping his fist in the air. Why, in order to cheer on my team, do I have to cheer on someone who seems to be some sort of sexual predator? When Haoli Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens broke Roethlisberger's nose in a game in December, I cheered. Maybe Mike Tomlin would send in Charlie Batch or Dennis Dixon, maybe I could cheer for someone who doesn't allegedly corner women in club bathrooms. But then Roethlisberger went back onto the field--and the commentators acted like he was some kind of hero for it. In fact, in every game, it's mentioned like it's something he didn't put into motion: the commentators say he's had a rough season. A hard time. An image to repair. As though this is just another motorcycle accident, not a series of accusations of crimes.
Why didn't the Rooneys fire Roethlisberger? Or pull a move like they did with Santonio Holmes (after his multiple substance-abuse suspensions) and trade him away? The answer is obvious: he's a good athlete. But it puts me--and surely, many others in the Steeler Nation--in between a rock and a hard place. In order for someone like Hines Ward--who I love dearly--to get that football down the field, the pass needs to be made. Roethlisberger has to throw it. If I want the team to win the Super Bowl, I need those passes to be made. I can't cheer on a team and somehow not cheer on its quarterback. The thing that gets me even more than the actual accusations is the attitudes of some of my fellow football fans. I watched the Steelers-Jets game with an acquaintance who, when the commentators brought up Roethlisberger's "hard time" this season, said "I've been to that town in Georgia, those girls are straight-up whores," as though that was a legitimate excuse for him. The attitude of "she's lying" or "but he's still a good player" or, worse, "even if it did happen, she deserved it" is what puts me off the most. Why do I have to bite my tongue or somehow compromise my basic morals to be able to fully support a team?