This will probably be the only time I talk about sports other than soccer, blitzball, and quidditch (I promise).
Let me preface this by saying I was raised on NPR. I even worked at my local public radio/television station, WVIA, for a whole summer, and it was an amazingly nurturing and safe working environment. That said, I am absolutely livid at NPR right now. If I didn’t know that WVIA’s programming is often independent of NPR, I would be urging others to withdraw their membership dues.
Why am I so incensed? Well because of this story. In it, one of my favorite sport commentators, Frank Deford, says that we should dismiss the accusations of sexual assault against Roethelisberger and revoke the NFL’s temporary suspension of him because:
To what earthly benefit is it to suspend Roethlisberger? Does it teach little, impressionable children a lesson? Is it going to make other football players pause and think about being a role model late at night when they are on the cusp of committing mayhem? I mean, let’s give Roethlisberger credit. At least he wasn’t packing a firearm like so many of his athletic brethren do when they are out taking the air these evenings.
I’m sorry, Mr. Deford but I really think you’re missing the point.
This isn’t a higher standard. This is a human standard. Sexual assault is not a charming, roguish behavior, especially when it involves a barely legal to drink college girl and an acknowledgment by Roethlisberger himself that the situation was not a good one. A selection:
The young woman, who by all accounts was extremely drunk, told her friends, “We need to go. We need to go.” She told them she had just had sex with Roethlisberger. They asked if it was consensual. “No,” she said.
Sexual assault, or even sex where consent is confused is in no way comparable to the consensual infidelity of Tiger Woods or carrying a firearm into a club. And it is just insulting to every woman to assume the boys will be boys attitude that we ladies all want to have sex with Ben Roethlisberger, drunk or no. I go to school in Pittsburgh, alright. We know he’s a terrible person. In fact, a lot of the town hates him for both his attitude and his general stupidity. This is a man who has already been accused of sexual assault. I don’t care how magnetic you think athletes are, Mr. Deford, they aren’t that seductive.
Frank Deford owes an apology to anyone who has ever suffered from the effects of a sexual assault, victims, survivors, and allies alike. Roethlisberger’s suspension is not about him failing to be a role model, it’s about him failing to be a decent human being, and Deford’s trying to twist the story into some statement about how we force our athletes to be role models is not only misguided but downright ignorant.
I’m not okay with assault or carrying a concealed weapon, but they are not comparable to sexual assault. They just aren’t. It is unacceptable. And I say that as somebody who still loves Russell Crowe despite his bad behavior, which includes assault and various levels of terrible person-ness.
Never were Crowe’s spirits more in flux than when he was to read the climactic, “And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next” scene, in which his character, Maximus, removes his helmet and reveals his identity. It was only the most seminal line in the entire movie, and yet Crowe was convinced that it was ridiculous – overwrought, puffery that no man would ever be caught dead saying, least of all a brawny, sword-carrying killer standing under the unrelenting African sun. Scott was one of the few people who seemed to understand Crowe, that underneath all that volatility was a very scared actor who needed to feel safe. Rather than blow up at him, Scott waited until the tantrum subsided. Then he agreed to shoot the scene the way Crowe preferred.
After doing the take, Crowe still looked dissatisfied. “Let me see the other script again,” he said to Scott, referring to the loathed revision. After studying the page stonily, he shrugged. “Well, we might as well try it.”
And so, the scene was reshot. Everyone agreed it was brilliant. Everyone, that is, but Crowe. “Russell, what’s the problem?” Scott asked, finally showing a hint of exasperation. “It worked.”
“It was shit,” Crowe repeated, “but I’m the greatest actor in the world and I can make even shit sound good.” And with that he marched off.
That’s an athlete and a role model, Ben Roethlisberger and Frank Deford. Who do you think you are?