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Ben Roethlisberger's redemption on the field doesn't mean he's a changed person off it

Just because Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to his third Super Bowl that doesn't atone for his past mistakes.
Just because Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to his third Super Bowl that doesn't atone for his past mistakes. (Nick Laham/getty Images)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 29, 2011; 11:51 PM

Seven days before the Super Bowl, Ben Roethlisberger is frighteningly morphing into Ben Redemption.

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He is being hailed in some quarters for his ability to overcome nefarious perceptions about his character, to overcome his made-up-their-minds detractors, the people who want to bring him down like the New York Jets wished they could a week ago.

But Big Ben has only one person to overcome if he wants to change how people view him: Ben Roethlisberger.

He's the one who bought kids alcohol last summer, walked into a nightclub bathroom in Milledgeville, Ga., with a sauced young woman and left it to police to decide what really happened behind closed doors after she cried rape.

Though charges were never brought against him, those negative perceptions were not invented; he created them. He's the one who was sued in civil court by a woman in Nevada who claimed she was sexually assaulted.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must have found something in those police reports that made him suspend Roethlisberger for six games, before he reduced the suspension to four, no? That it might have been more than merely a horrendous lack of judgment.

And now that Roethlisberger has the Steelers back in the Super Bowl, his tarnished image almost bizarrely has a chance to be miraculously refurbished.

But that's where Big Ben gets off the hook, because it's our fault for believing that how well star athletes do their jobs somehow equates to the person they are off the field.

See, your past counts only so long in sports - until you use your athletic ability to obfuscate what you did wrong. En route to being great again, by association you are somehow seen as a good person.

Look, Roethlisberger might have made changes in his personal life for the better. But we don't know. Further, how can a person's success on the field come moderately close to telling us?

One of the big mistakes made in January 2001 was calling Ray Lewis's story a tale of redemption, a mere year after he was arrested in a double murder and eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

He was merely a man who used the field as a sanctuary during the most trying year of his life, a year that incredibly culminated with him being named Super Bowl MVP. He got the job done. That's it.

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