Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Wins the Biggest Factor When Pros Try to Repair Reputations

Over Christmas break, a friend from Pittsburgh witnessed a bizarre scene.

One day, some guy walks into a restaurant. He sits down and orders some food. When he’s done eating, he ignores the check on the table and starts walking towards the door. When the waitress asks him to stop and pay, he asks, “Don’t you know who I am?”

Is it the second coming of Jesus Christ? No, it’s just Ben Roethlisberger. But apparently everyone should know who Ben Roethlisberger is, and apparently he is so incredible that we should just let him eat for free.

But no one seems to remember these stories. No one seems to care about the off-field headlines: the multiple women who accused “Big Ben” of sexual assault in the past two years; his four-game suspension at the beginning of this year for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

While I certainly disapprove of his behavior, most fans aren’t going to let it bother them and make them hate him for the rest of their lives. Do you know why? Because Big Ben is a winner. And the fact that he’s led his team to yet another Super Bowl is a testament to his greatness. When millions of football fans watch the Steelers’ quarterback next Sunday, they probably won’t remember his run-in with law enforcement this past offseason. He can throw touchdown passes and win games, and that’s all that really matters.

Let’s look at the numbers. Back in April, around the time when Ben was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old girl, a poll showed that less than a quarter of Pennsylvanians viewed Roethlisberger favorably. Now let’s fast-forward to the present day. Today, almost half of those fans believe that the quarterback has repaired his image.

What happened in the last 10 months that caused this change? That’s an easy question to answer: He won games. He threw for 3,200 yards and 17 touchdowns in only 12 regular season games, and now he has Pittsburgh on the verge of another Super Bowl victory. Time may heal all things, but success heals them even faster.

After suspending Roethlisberger at the beginning of this season, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell warned Big Ben: “In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.”

In the past year he has certainly gotten his sports career back on track, but what about his life? He hasn’t gone to rehab or donated a bunch of money to charity. He hasn’t given any moving speeches, although he did issue a brief public apology. In the end, there is just one key ingredient: winning.

And if you can win, fans will be willing to forgive you. If you can win, you can take your second chance and run with it. This is certainly nothing new in sports; just look at Michael Vick. Three years ago, Vick was convicted on dogfighting charges. He was bankrupt and trashed by the media and fans everywhere. Who could have predicted that just three seasons later, he would have an MVP-caliber year and score 30 touchdowns? Who could have predicted that he would be the new leader of the Philadelphia Eagles, and that his No. 7 jerseys would be selling like hotcakes? When someone goes to jail for 19 months and suffers public humiliation, I expect him to stick his head in the sand as he falls from glory.

Let’s be honest — do as many people care now about what Vick did to those dogs as they did at the time of his trial? Don’t get me wrong, what he did was absolutely atrocious. But does it really matter to the greater NFL-watching public anymore? Once you start throwing touchdowns and winning games, it’s funny how everyone seems to forget. Even PETA has gotten off his case, and President Obama has praised the Eagles for giving Vick a second chance.

There’s always the occasional outlier who will never ever forgive people like Vick or Roethlisberger for what they have done (allegedly or otherwise), but they’re in the minority.

Why? Because in America, we love winners. We talk about them, watch them, imitate them and wear their jerseys. When winners make mistakes, we criticize them. They get suspended, go to jail and answer tough questions on TV. But then they go back to winning, and we forget about the past. Ray Lewis, Kobe Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick — they’ve all done it.

Tiger Woods, you’re next. In a few years, the name Elin Nordegren will be an answer to a question on Jeopardy. And if Tiger starts winning again like Big Ben, you’ll have a tough time remembering exactly who that woman was.

Nick Fedyk is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. Double NickTwist appears in every other Tuesday edition of Hoya Sports.

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