Facebook Nation Meets Steeler Nation

I spent  a good chunk of this day on our WTAE Facebook fan page reading your comments on the Santonio Holmes trade and the decision not to press charges in the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault case. I don’t know if this was a record day for responses, but I know the issue drew great passion from every angle.

It’s clear that Pittsburgh-area residents care about thier football team and the men who suit up for their black and gold. There were those of you who felt Ben was innocent all along and this was vindication. There were those that believed he had gotten away with some crime and should be punished. There were plenty of these folks who believed Ben Roethlisberger and deserved the same plight as Sant0nio Holmes and should be shipped out-of-town. There were throngs who were ready to send their Santonio Holmes jerseys to the trash, quickly forgetting the man whose catch won them a Super Bowl.

I have been here for 15 years and never had I seen a subject divide Steeler Nation as much as this. But in an unscientific poll on our website, you were nearly united in the belief that you would rather have men of character represent your city than win a championship at any cost.

Ben Roethlisberger: His situation had Steeler nation … and our Facebook fan page friends … at odds.

As for my take on all this? I have my thoughts but they are just one person’s opinion, just like yours. What I do hope comes out of this, and what I will say, is that a statement made 20 years ago and was laughed at and ridiculed is coming to life.

Charles Barkley in a commercial asked Americans not to make him, any professional athlete, their role model. He was criticized for those comments but two decades later, they are coming to fruition. Regardless of guilt or innocence, we cannot ask these young men to be the models for our children’s lives. Sports is glamorous and fun, but it is not the way we should pattern the lives of our children anymore than we should have the home TV serve as our children’s’ babysitter.

Sure the overwhelming number of professional athletes are good people living normal, quiet lives. Some, like the Pens Sidney Crosby, is above and beyond in his graciousness and kindness and behavior. However, it only takes the last couple months of watching this Steeler saga to make us all realize that it’s a long fall from grace – even if you haven’t turned 30 yet.

One more thought. I do wonder what will happen when football season begins. Clearly many of you on our Facebook fan page are not longer fans of Ben Roethlisberger. It’s understandible. Sports fans are fueled by emotion and opinion and right now, Steeler fans are filled with both. For those unhappy with or unwilling to forgive Roethlisberger, will you feel the same after that first touchdown pass? That first win? That first division title? That next Super Bowl championship?

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