A Pint of NFL: The Two Sides of Ben Roethlisberger
I picked up today’s beer on the way to a family gathering. I don’t usually buy on a whim because seldom can I walk into neighborhood store and find a quality beer I’ve not tried yet. Today, the stars were aligned. There, on a shelf stuck helplessly between a sad can of Pilsner Urquel and a six-pack of Budweiser, was a single clear bottle of Amber ale. Sorry for the drama, but that’s really how it went.
When I got to the pool party and got reacquainted with my extended family, I rested my lone bottle in the cooler alongside some random bottles of cerveza, and after about an hour, fished it out. Not having an opener I used a lighter. The smell of my Innis & Gunn is what first hit me. As the first gulp went down I had my co-headliner for this article.
Like my beer, Ben Roethlisberger first presents as very tough. Big Ben is widely considered one of the toughest, hard-nosed football players in the NFL. As a part-time Steelers fans myself (I play a bills fan on weekends) there are many games I can cite in which Ben played, was injured, yet endured, whereas many other quarterbacks wouldn’t have. Please, don’t dispute that. I’m enjoying this beer, I don’t want it spoiled.
The first gulp is delicious. Not refreshing, rather, it is tasty. The sweetness from the toffee and hint of caramel are the stars of this show. My mistake is deciding on tasting this beer while enjoying a sausage on a bun that someone handed me on the side. Not that my Oktoberfest with onions and mustard is bad in any way, it’s just that this beer isn’t a compliment – it stands alone. I feel about this beer what I can only assume a Shiraz drinker would feel about ice wine. It’s a dessert, not a solo act. It’s not to be paired with anything. It is a little on the heavy side, as some may have said the same about Ben once or twice. Okay, maybe a few more times than that.
Ben has been getting the cold shoulder since his “legal issues” arose a couple of years back. It’s not my intent to get into that right now – remember, I’m enjoying a beer, and having it ruined by reminiscing about the stupid things he did will only spoil the moment. Let’s just call this a disclaimer, asking you to set aside your feelings for him as a moral human being, and concentrate on what he brings to the gridiron. I need a drink.
Ben plays through pain. If backed into a corner to defend this, I’ll just throw last season’s incredible performance versus the Browns into the ring. The Steelers were fighting over top spot with the Ravens late in the season. Just before half-time, a 300 lb. rhino landed on Ben’s leg, with his ankle doing a contortionists’ act. Heinz Field went silent. Ben limped off the field for x-rays for what he assumed was a broken leg . Rather than sitting the rest of the game, he was taped up and back on the field for the second half. That, my friends, is Steelers football. Lambert. Greene. Bleier. Holmes. Ward. I raise my clear bottle in salute of some of the finest, toughest Steelers ever to play, and take another sip.
I don’t know much about Innis & Gunn, but what I do know is that they aged this beer in oak, whereas other versions of their brand rested in whiskey barrels. I’ve had beer aged in whiskey barrels before, and really enjoyed them. They presented an old cigar quality. This beer isn’t quite like that. It’s almost like a pretender, trying to be something it’s not – a sheep in wolves’ clothes if you will. Sounds harsh, and I don’t mean it to be because I rather like it, it’s just that it ends up too woodsy and sweet for me to give it a top-billing. Again, I draw a comparison to Roethlisberger, who is being criticized by some for fabricating or at the very least embellishing his most recent injury yesterday. So, is Ben the tough S-O-B that most feel, or is he a pretender, hoping to add his name to Steeler greats?
In practice yesterday, a 300 lb rhino (again with the rhinos!) landed on his leg resulting in a sprained ankle. His ankle was iced and he skipped the rest of the practice. Call me stupid (actually don’t – I might cry), but isn’t that what normally happens when a team’s star quarterback sprains his ankle? Would it be better for him to hobble out with those rhinos again so he can throw a few more out patterns and the occasional screen? I mean, we’ve been told countless times
My beer is on its last legs now, and given that Ben has been playing a hard-nosed style of football for the past eight seasons, I wonder if he might be on his last as well. Injuries add up. As a thirty-something-or-other myself, I can’t play a game of softball without feeling some nagging past injury re-surfacing. With a nagging rotator cuff injury, which he apparently is playing through, and an ankle that seems on the brittle side, I question whether he will be forced to change his game or suffer the consequences of playing in the NFL. If he indeed is as tough as he positions himself as, then I think his time amongst the top quarterbacks in the NFL (yet a step below the Mannings and Rogers of the world, of course) is slowly winding down. He can’t cope with that abuse much longer. However, if he is a pretender like many NFL fans, and an increasing number of fans from Pittsburgh, believe, then he may still have some gas in the tank.
My beer, as it starts to fade, leaves me begging for more. Not more of the same oak-aged beer, but a return to the strong, classic whiskey-aged barrels which produced so many memories. In a way, perhaps that is also what I want of Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t want to question whether he is sincere in his ailments. I want to consider him amongst the Lamberts and Greenes, I just don’t know if I can.
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