When it comes to choosing a team to root for in a sporting event, I tend to believe that the enemy of your enemy is your friend.
At first blush, there are probably those who would think that since I grew up in and again live in Minnesota, that I would be a fan of the Vikings and would want the Packers to lose this weekend. The reality, however is that I don’t really care that much about the Vikings. Of Minnesota’s pro teams, I care less about the Purple than any other.
I’d much rather spend fall Sunday afternoons playing golf. Now I will watch them if I don’t have anything else going. I’ll certainly tune in for night games. I know that a lot of people care a lot. I’m just not really one of those people.
I will admit, however, to being a little weary of the segment of the population that thinks that the Packers, the Badgers and all things Wisconsin are so awesome that they felt the obligation to move all the way to Minnesota to tell us about it. That kind of dedication — openly leaving the center of their universe in order to share the greatness of Wisconsin with us uninformed — is very impressive.
But I just can’t get around the idea of rooting for the Steelers. Not at all.
I really don’t have anything against the fine people of Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin seems like a pretty good coach. I respect what the Steelers franchise has been able to do.
But I can’t root for one second for Ben Roethlisberger. There is just too much smoke there. A guy like Roethlisberer can’t be that unlucky can he? He couldn’t be so unlucky to have repeatedly been in the wrong place at the wrong time, could he?
I don’t think so.
So a football season that began with Roethlisberger suspended for four games by the NFL — that’s 25 percent of the regular season — now ends with him playing for another Super Bowl title. And he even dared to drop the God card after beating the Jets in the AFC championship game.
There are going to be plenty of opportunities to read about Roethlisberger between now and Sunday. Without question, there will be stories about Roethlisberger’s redemption, how he’s turned his life around, blah, blah, blah. I’m not buying it.
I’m not going to say that once a bad guy, always a bad guy, but I’m not that far from that. Maybe I’m from the a once a bad guy, probably always a bad guy camp.
But don’t believe me. Here are two interesting Roethlisberger stories.
The often bombastic Buzz Bissenger — the author of the greatest football book ever (Friday Night Lights) — wrote a piece for The Daily Beast.
Here is one key excerpt:
“With the Georgia incident nearly a year old, the contrition of Big Ben has turned into the all too familiar condescension of Big Ben—I am a great athlete and the rest of you are annoying gnats. Earlier this week he was yukking it up with the reporter boys and girls, telling jokes and holding court.
The good news is that 30 years from now, nobody will remember Ben Roethlisberger. His winning touch won’t mean a thing. There will be no reporters suckling at his tit. He will be gone and forgotten, except perhaps by the college student whose life he so clearly traumatized on a March night in Milledgeville, Georgia.
But maybe time has come to let bygones be bygones. Maybe Big Ben is a different Big Ben. So good luck in Super Bowl XLV.
May the Packers break your legs on the first series of downs.
Which will prove there is indeed a God who cares about football.”
The second story, naturally, has to do with golf. I had heard it and wondered whether it was true or not. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But it just seems true.
The moral of the story for me is that after the amount of time I spent covering sports, I can’t simply root for or root against laundry. I can’t blindly root for a team because that has always been my team. That part of me died when I was a sportswriter.
Instead I root for or against people. Was the coach a jerk to me or my friends? I’m probably not going to root for them. Do they have players who act like jerks and get away with it? Again, I can’t support that. I root for good people and against the bad guys in the sports world.
That’s why I’ll be joining all of those Wisconsin ambassadors and rooting for their team in green and gold. It’s maybe not the greatest laundry choice. But it it is way easier than pulling for a bad guy.
Maybe it’s me, but I can’t root against the Packers, and that’s coming from a Vikings fan. I have a lot of respect for an organization that build its team through a draft. I hope the Vikings can be in the Packers’ level one day.
As for Big Ben, what he did was wrong, but I am not going to rip him forever either. I don’t think it’s redemption neither. I am just indifferent about all this. I hope he continues to grow up.
Growing up, I was a big fan of the Bradshaw, Greene, Stallworth, Swann Steeler teams, and I respect the Rooney family and the Steelers tradition, but I can’t abide all the smoke around big Ben, so count me in as a fellow, temporary Packer-backer.