By Mary Paoletti
Read this quote:
"Ben Roethlisberger hopes he gets a warm reception in his first game back this year in Heinz Field. Many Steelers fans were upset with Roethlisberger's off-field conduct and subsequent suspension. But the city of Pittsburgh is feeling good about its football team, and even more optimistic now that Roethlisberger is returning."
Did you laugh? I did.
The story isn't a bad one. Roethlisberger's return is important news in the NFL this week and should be written about in more than a few ways. This one just happened to make me snort a little. The moment of moral championing from fans is mentioned so fleetingly it's funny.
"Tsk, tsk. Bad, Ben! Now, ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!"
I've said before that the personal and professional lives of athletes must be kept in different brain boxes if fans are to keep their sanity. Roethlisberger is a perfect example of why.
If you want to appreciate him then you have to keep your eyes trained on his on-field stats. When you wander over to where the mugshots and court appointments are, well, that's when you start feeling funny about pulling that number 7 t-shirt out of your closet for game day.
Easier said than done? Maybe not.
His first regular-season jog out onto Heinz Field will be an interesting moment for Steelers fans. Will they cheer the quarterback of their professional football team? Or will they boo the man who abused the privilege of wearing black and gold? Multiple times.
Big Ben might be smarter than we think to anticipate cheers not jeers.
Pittsburgh is 3-1 but ranks dead last in NFL passing stats. Fans want the best QB their team can have out on that gridiron, and for the Steelers that's Roethlisberger. Bottom line: They want to win. You know why that matters more? Because the connection they feel is to football.
They don't know the women who accused Roethlisberger of sexual assault. They do know that he beat all the charges he faced. And that motorcycle incident from forever ago? Who doesn't like motorcycles? Bikes are badass! How can you blame the guy?
Some will. But when it's game day in Steelers Country, most won't. Roethlisberger is banking on it.