Give Big Ben benefit of the doubt

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The investigation into sexual assault allegations against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger(notes) continued Monday, with Milledgeville, Ga. authorities conducting a press conference that revealed little about which way this case might go. They’re still gathering evidence and conducting interviews, and they’ll let us know when they decide whether charges will be filed.

Roethlisberger is again dealing with some form of sexual misconduct accusations.
(Lynne SLadky/AP Photo)

You know, the whole due-process thing.

The deliberate pace of justice won’t do for some people, however. In this age of immediacy, they want to rip Roethlisberger right away for the mere fact that someone has accused him of a heinous act, even though his lawyer insisted Monday that the quarterback is “completely innocent of any crime.”

We may not know for many months, or even longer, whether this claim by attorney Ed Garland is rhetoric or reality, but that’s not stopping the morality police from rushing to judgment. Rather than speculating on Roethlisberger’s potential guilt or innocence (which would be totally irresponsible), they’re taking aim at the high-profile passer for “putting himself in this situation.”

I wish they’d put a sock in it.

Call me old-fashioned, but until a district attorney lays out some legitimate evidence that Roethlisberger has committed this very serious crime – and until he has had a chance to defend himself in court and be judged by a jury of his peers – I don’t want to hear about how stupid he is from people who have no idea what really went down at that Milledgeville club early last Friday morning.

Among the columns that caught my eye Monday were this one by Terence Moore, one of the many talented sportswriters at AOL Fanhouse, and this one by ESPN.com’s Jemele Hill, one of the people I like and respect most in our business. They make some legitimate points, but I wish they’d have waited until more facts come to light.

I understand what Moore, Hill and many others are saying – given the pending civil suit by a former Lake Tahoe, Nev. hotel employee claiming Roethlisberger raped her nearly two years ago (an allegation he has also denied, and for which no criminal charges were filed), he should have been especially careful about where he went, how he acted and what company he kept. But it’s also defensible, in my opinion, to give Roethlisberger the benefit of the doubt.

Say he regards the civil suit as frivolous and totally untrue – I’m not saying it is or isn’t, but there has been some evidence supporting Roethlisberger’s side of the story – and that he has nonetheless retained a basic faith in humanity. Under that premise, could we really rebuke Roethlisberger for deciding not to live his life like a hermit, instead venturing out in public to engage in the type of behavior preferred by many young, single, confident (not to mention rich and famous) American men?

Milledgeville police chief Woodrow Blue addresses the media Monday.
(Erik S. Lesser/AP Photo)

Put it this way: If going to a bar with your boys and cavorting with attractive women is inherently stupid, then there are a lot of idiots happily getting ready for the weekend all over the free world right now. And don’t get me started on professional athletes, or successful, high-profile people in general. Shockingly, many of the NFL players you root for on Sundays are likely to end up chilling in the VIP area of a hotspot full of suggestively dressed women hours later. Some of these guys, like Roethlisberger, are unmarried.

None of this is meant to in any way to trivialize the specter of sexual assault or to minimize what is at stake. If Roethlisberger is found guilty of such a crime, I’ll be calling him far worse than stupid, and he’ll deserve everything he gets.

However, as many journalists and I learned in the wake of former Redskins safety Sean Taylor’s 2007 murder, it’s important to wait for the real story before condemning someone for being in a position where trouble could occur. In retrospect, I wish I’d waited a few more days before drawing even the slightest connection between the gun charges in Taylor’s past and the home invasion that claimed his life as an innocent victim.

This may be the only time you’ll ever see me write something like this, but in an effort to restore some sanity, I’m going to quote the short statement Steelers president Art Rooney II gave to the media on Monday: “All of us in the Steelers family are concerned about the recent incident involving Ben Roethlisberger in Georgia. We cannot comment on any of the specifics until law enforcement’s investigation is concluded. Certainly, we will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

It’s an approach the rest of us would be wise to emulate.

TRIPPIN’ ON E(MAIL)

Could you be any more of a low-life, talentless scumbag than you are? You’re not funny, nor witty, nor timely. Your politics has no place on a sports page. I can’t imagine why Yahoo even employs a nobody like you, but I will certainly write to the company and tell them my thoughts. I did once before, but I’m moved to do so again. You are simply an (expletive).

Jerry

Hey, let’s get this party started! I guess it would probably bum you out to learn that Yahoo! pays me by the insult, and to realize that this particular email allowed me to renew my subscription to The Daily Worker.


You did it again, Mike. I have always been opposed to the proposed OT rule changes because I’ve always believed that if you want to win, do it on the field. So even if a team wins the coin flip, the other team should step up and stop them on defense; and there’s their shot to win the game. If a team can’t stop the coin-flip winner, then they weren’t good enough to get it done. However, your argument in favor of the OT changes proposed are reasonable and food for thought. I’m not totally sold, but you’ve gotten me to reconsider my opinion at least. I hate that. (j/k) Also, I loved this response: “Hey, it’s the 21st century – disagree with a journalist’s opinion, accuse him/her of bias. Given that I’m paid to give opinions, it’s far from a damning charge. In this case, I’m biased toward performances that I personally enjoyed more than others. Scandalous.” Keep beating the barbarians with logic; it’s fun to watch.

Ken
New York City

In fairness, after Trippin’s long hiatus, the barbarians have a lot of pent-up rants to unleash. At least, I pray they do.


I’m glad you are tasked with nothing more important than writing a stupid sports column. Allowing an overtime football game end if the team receiving the kickoff scores a touchdown does not address the heart of the issue, to wit: The team losing the coin toss never gets an opportunity. I understand scoring a TD is harder than kicking a field goal, but the outcome is still, to a large part, determined by luck – who wins the coin toss. I propose one extra quarter. If the game is still tied, it remains a tie. This will result in more teams attempting two-point conversions, thus adding to the excitement.

Ken

First of all, I’m honored that such an accomplished writer – one who can bust out the precious phrase “to wit” – felt compelled to weigh in on my stupid sports column. So thank you for that. As far as the outcome of an overtime being determined by luck, if you think professional sporting contests are decided entirely by merit, you probably watch about one game a year. Finally, playing an extra quarter is indeed a viable idea, but before implementing it the league would surely have to consult with the men who beat on one another in pads for three hours, to see how they feel about doing it for a fourth hour.


I think overtime should have three flips of the coin. Best two out of three get ball. And after first team scores, the other team should get kickoff and have to score on its first try. And if they tie the game again first one to score after that wins.

Daniel
Ventura, Calif.

Two-out-of-three coin flips? Why not just have the captains settle it via roshambo?


Dude, your last article seemed a little weak. Are you really going give in and just agree with one overtime proposal? Come on man. Show me more! You’re supporting the new overtime proposal because you’re “ … sick of listening to people whine about how unfair the current overtime system is … ?” That’s a pretty lame reason. When I saw the article title, I got excited to read it because I thought you of all people might come up with some feasible solution to all this overtime madness. I didn’t expect you to concede and just agree with one proposal even though you don’t completely agree with it. Man up Silver. I’ve been reading your column since you came over to Yahoo! and if there’s one person who can come up with some solution that’s legit, I believe it would be you! I would like to simply conclude with one famous awe inspiring quote made popular by my man Rob Schneider … “YOU CAN DO IT!”

Maksym Marek
Livingston, N.J.

OK, I have to admit that got me fired up. It also made me think of Bubby Brister. Around the time “The Waterboy” came out, I was hanging out with the then-Denver Broncos quarterback and his wife, Bonnie, for an SI feature story. They’re from Monroe, La., and I kept referencing the over-the-top stereotypes in the film and asking if they were legitimate. “Aw, hell no – we don’t eat Nutria rats!” Bubby would exclaim. “That stuff’s all exaggerated.” After about our 12th hour together, a few glasses of wine into dinner, the Bristers finally came clean. “You know what,” Bubby said, smiling at Bonnie, “there is one Louisiana-ism from that movie that’s totally true.” Then he and Bonnie laughed and exclaimed, in unison, “Drunk cheerleaders!”


A great piece on Sharper (and everything else). Also enjoyed the new lyrics to a truly classic tune. Just wanted to let you know about a good song from another Elvis (Costello, that is): “Love for Tender,” from his 1980 record “Get Happy!” This wouldn’t require as much modification. Anyway, keep up the great work! Thanks very much.

John Sec
Lafayette, La.

De nada. And thank YOU for throwing out a suggestion for altered lyrics – it’s emails like this that convince my editors I’m not singing into a vacuum. (The people who know me best are far less convinced.)


Hey Michael, Glad to see Trippin’ is back. I love reading the good, bad and ugly in your mailbag. Great article on Suh v. McCoy. I don’t think people consider the team or system when comparing potential draft picks. To steal a line from Herb Brooks, when he picked the 1980 team USA roster – you’re not looking for the best players, you’re looking for the right ones. And there’s a difference. Nice job in pointing that out.

Ryan Smith
Hazlet, N.J.

Thanks. I’m sure this young man would agree.


Dear Michael, I was told a few times that the NFL games are all fixed by Las Vegas. Each quarter, each half and each game’s scores are all fixed by Las Vegas and all this is nothing, but a big business by Las Vegas and all teams agree together and practice during the week on how to play the games according to the plan made by Vegas. I would love to get your input on this issue. Thank you very much.

Michael Shomali
British Columbia, Canada

Yes, that is absolutely correct. But it’s a state secret, so PLEASE don’t tell anyone. In exchange, I promise not to laugh at curling. (OK, I lied.)


Michael, over the years I’ve sent you a few blasts regarding some of the articles you have written, which in my opinion – also shared by others – were not good and some off the wall. However, as a very proud Canadian I want to thank you for your comments on the hockey gold-medal game. It did indeed mean more to Canada especially as the host nation but perhaps even more so because of the terrible tragedy at the beginning of the Games. You are not likely to have the time nor inclination to read many of the comments from dozens and dozens of your countrymen and women but a huge percentage of them were incredibly bad and insensitive. One that stands out and really bothers me and I’m certain all Canadians is the person who said re: Crosby “he should [expletive] off and go try the luge perhaps the same can happen to him.”

Sick, sick mind over a hockey game. Maybe its time to remind all you Americans that Canada was/is along side-by-side with your own soldiers virtually every day putting their lives at risk to protect you and our future. Also, on that fateful day in history 9/11 Canadian firefighters, dogs, etc. were there immediately to help our neighbors in dire need of support. It was one of the best hockey games ever played, Canada won, get over it, Crosby (from my hometown) is a class act, not pretentious in any way; extremely humble young man, period, … and the very best player on the planet. Again Michael for all Canadians thank you. You’ve made it very hard for me to blast you from now on. But I’m the one who called the Giants to win the SB much to your dismay so if you want the inside of the (Brett) FAVRE future drop me a line. I’ll bring you up to speed. Have a great day!

Bob
Barrie, Ontario

Thanks. It’s great to have you aboard as my new BFF, and I’m sorry some of my countrymen felt compelled to make insensitive comments about Sid the Kid. I know you and your brethren to our north would never stoop to such rhetoric. Oh, wait, I just scrolled through my in-box from January and saw this &hellip:


That was the only article you have written in the last several weeks where you didn’t take a shot at Favre. Given your extreme obvious dislike for Brett Favre(notes) which is apparent to everyone, this will be my last comment to you and never will I read another word of the mostly trash you write. You are entitled to an opinion but to go after him constantly is bush league. I am certain you drank yourself silly after him made that last passing mistake (which wasn’t the reason they lost but you blamed him) but I hope and pray that he has the chance to shove it down your ugly throat. One day you will get your due praise – a trophy to honor the worst sports writer in America. BY THE WAY GETTING DRUNK WITH BARRY (Switzer) IS NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT HE WAS AN (expletive) LIKE YOU

Bob Findlay
Barrie, Ontario

Some observations: You lied about not reading another word, and for that I am grateful. Barry Switzer is much less of an (expletive) than I am – trust me. Finally, while I’ve certainly been critical of Favre’s behavior at times over the past couple of years, I absolutely like and respect him. We go way back. If only you, Brett, Barry, Sidney and I could hash this out over a few Molsons, I think we’d all walk away smiling.

Michael Silver covers the NFL for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Mogotxt, Twitter and Facebook. Also check out ridewithsilver.com. Send Michael a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Mar 9, 2010