Redemption, redux

As a writer, the idea of redemption is one of my favourite themes. It’s powerful, when written correctly, and done in a believable way, when you relate to the character. And after watching him hit bottom, see him get all the way back.

Been something of a hot topic in football the last couple of weeks, with Ben Roethlisberger’s Steelers going to the Super Bowl. I see some parallels to what happened with Tiger Woods, which I mused on some time back– parallels about the entitlement of his position and the incredible focus needed to do what he does blinding the morals.

(There are, uh, obvious differences as well, before I get yelled at. While Tiger’s indiscretions were violating the sanctity of marriage, Roethlisberger’s alleged indiscretions- being accused of raping a 20 year old girl in a bar in Georgia- were much more serious.)

So, the ground will get walked on over and over as we lead up to the biggest of football games of the year: Has Roethlisberger been redeemed, either in play or off the field? Have the fans “forgiven” him? And so on and so forth.

It’s obvious to most that what someone does in an athletic arena should have very little bearing on what we think of them personally. One year and a few scrambles haven’t made people forget the events of last March, where Roethlisberger allegedly committed his assault. The Steelers, an organization with a reputation  as “family” and “blue collar” (deserved or not), had traded lead reciever Santonio Holmes for a fifth round pick when he violated the league’s substance abuse policy, and there was a lot of talk of them possibly trading Big Ben as well.

Though the woman elected not to proceed to court, Roethlisberger was suspended for six games for violating the NFL’s conduct policy, a suspension that was reduced to four by the commissioner later on.

Redemption keeps coming up in the NFL these days. Former dog-killer Michael Vick is in the Pro Bowl, and Big Ben is repping the AFC in the Super Bowl with his team for the third time in six years. So Ben’s a good player, on a good team, might be a dynasty, one of the all time greats, et cetera, et cetera.

While I understand the narrative appeal of linking the idea of Roethlisberger winning a championship- the height of a professional player’s accomplishment in his sport- with him having come ‘all the way back’, it does give me some pause. Does him being successful at his job mean we should see him as a better person? Does it MAKE him a better person? I don’t know the answer. Just as I don’t know what really happened in that bar last March.

But I don’t think I’m going to worry about Big Ben’s alleged redemption tomorrow, because I don’t think there’s going to be any. I’m just going to watch some football.


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