SI's eagerly awaited Roethlisberger cover story hits newsstands tomorrow, and while it's sure to go down as the definitive portrait of Big Ben, we can't help but wonder about the timing.
SI did their legwork on this one. It carries a five-person byline, and coalesces everything we know about the Milledgeville case, along with insights from those close to Roethlisberger, to paint a portrait of a pampered manchild of an athlete, removed from reality and protected from the spotlight by those around him, and the willingness of many to look the other way.
Over the course of several days in Pittsburgh, SI heard countless variations on the same themes: Roethlisberger throwing his weight around, asking those who got in his way, ‘Do you know who I am?' Even peripheral interview subjects would, with no solicitation, disparage the man once considered the flesh-and-blood symbol of a town built on raging rivers and hot metal."
There are disclosures about the ineptitude, or perhaps complicity, of the Milledgeville police that kept the investigation from ever going to trial. There are indications that the management at Harrah's Lake Tahoe did what they could to make the first rape allegations go away.
Little of this is new, as the damning affidavits and investigation reports have been trickling out for weeks now.
What is new is the pervading sense that revelations about Roethlisberger's transgressions, or at least his character, are not revelations at all to many — especially to those that we as fans count on to report it.
A few months after the [2006 motorcycle] accident, a reporter and a cameraman for KDKA-TV, the CBS affiliate that broadcasts Steelers games, were driving on I-376 in Pittsburgh when they saw two men on motorcycles and recognized one as Roethlisberger, who was not wearing a helmet. They began shooting footage, which showed Roethlisberger giving them the finger as he sped away, but the video never aired…. several people who saw the video gave SI similar accounts of the tape; sources believe the story was killed out of fear that it would damage KDKA's relationship with the Steelers."
We've all heard the stories, from men and women, in the months since the rape allegation. Everyone seems to have their own Big Ben story to tell, and they're overwhelmingly negative. It's inconceivable to think that the media, both local and national, didn't have their own stories.
It's the nature of the business that the media will protect athletes, supposedly because there's something petty about reporting on their character off-the-field. Then why, after a big scandal, is it open season to dig up every little bit of dirt from their past? Wouldn't this SI story have been just as interesting, and a much better scoop, if it had run, say, a year ago? Aside from the Milledgeville incident, there's nothing that couldn't have been reported before.
But that's not what the media does, because reporting that "Ben Roethlisberger is a dick" is not "newsworthy." If that's an argument, then there's no justification for saying it becomes newsworthy now, in the wake of his very public embarrassment.
So congrats to SI on their decidedly excellent feature, which is essentially six pages of people saying that, yes, "Ben Roethlisberger is a dick."
Here at Deadspin, we promise never to compromise when it comes to exposing the biggest dicks in sports.
Thanks for joining us for another day of fun. See you in the morning.