Roethlisberger, Massa, Ensign, Woods: Sex, power and sports

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 12, 2010; 9:27 AM

Here we go again.

In a week when David Letterman avoided an extortion trial involving his in-house affairs, when Tiger Woods is said to have hired Ari Fleischer to do damage control over his parade of mistresses, when the Eric Massa tale turned more serious with questions of seeking out young male staffers, Big Ben is in trouble -- again.

The story broke last weekend that a college student had accused Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of sexually assaulting her at a Georgia dance club. His agent put out a statement pooh-poohing the allegation and saying that "we are skeptical of motive." All that happened was that "Ben and his friends met a group of women and everyone mingled together throughout the evening."

Now it turns out there was more than just mingling.

"Ben Roethlisberger told police he did not have intercourse with a 20-year-old college student who has accused him of sexual assault, a Pittsburgh television station has reported.

"KDKA-TV, quoting anonymous sources, said the Steelers quarterback had 'contact' with the Georgia College and State University sophomore that 'was not consummated' and afterward she slipped and bumped her head.

Doesn't sound like the kind of "contact" that happens when the offensive line hits you.

Now Roethlisberger is presumed innocent, of course. But I would point out that a Nevada resort hostess -- who never called the cops -- has sued him on charges of raping her during a 2008 golf tournament at Lake Tahoe. He has denied the charges.

Could that motorcycle accident while riding without a helmet have impaired his judgment?

No wonder Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook said of the 28-year-old: "It's time he grows up. He's no kid anymore. He needs to realize he's not just representing himself in public settings but also his family, the Steelers and his teammates."

Here's the point: As a hugely successful football star, Roethlisberger must have women hanging on him all the time. Why can't he pursue his love life without getting sacked by these accusations? Is this another Kobe situation? Does he, like Tiger, feel entitled to do whatever he wants, to play by a different set of rules, as Woods put it?

And isn't this the same sort of thing we see in politics? Eliot Spitzer (Time chronicles his comeback attempt). John Ensign (the New York Times finds new evidence about his "efforts to steer lobbying work to the embittered husband of his former mistress"). John Edwards (who said political success fed "a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want").

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