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By Mark F. Gray

If nothing else Roger Goodell is consistent. His six game suspension of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was as punitive as any disciplinary decision he has made since becoming the NFL’s Commissioner and follows the same hard line verdicts that Pac-Man Jones and Michael Vick faced. This is one time where the league got it right and in the long run it may salvage Roethlisberger’s life.

Anyone who read the graphic police report from the night of March 5 in Milledgeville, GA sees a pattern of irresponsible behavior that reached its peak. Roethlisberger nearly lost his life in an immature motorcycle accident but never got the message. After last summer’s incident in a Lake Tahoe hotel – which led to a pending civil suit – to the elaborate scheme set up by he and his bodyguards to take advantage of drunken co-eds in a south Georgia nightclub bathroom – the face of the Steelers franchise has been embarrassingly reckless.

The NFL mindset of invincibility that has made Roethlisberger a two time Super Bowl winner is the source of his problems at this point in his life. He is a living on the edge guy and while that works on the field it has threatened his career. Goodell, by intervening, may have saved the life of one of the NFL’s brightest stars even if he never plays another down.

What Goodell has done by suspending Roethlisberger is given him a chance to deal with his personal demons away from the spotlight. Apparently, there is a dark side behind the meticulous image that rears its ugly head when alcohol and women mix. If the events that were chronicled in the 527 page police report are correct there is an irresponsible, perverse, mad man who is crying out for help and needs intervention.

Even after his treatment there is no guarantee that Roethlisberger will play for Pittsburgh again. Steelers nation is a fan base whose women are as passionate about their franchise as any and his return may push their loyalty to the test. They spend millions on black and gold paraphernalia and watching him will make it difficult to sport their gear with as much pride as in the past.

Often when African American athletes are enabled by their entourage to engage in Big Ben’s behavior, the blame centers are those who have been hanging on and not policing them. The same questions have to be asked of Roethlisheger’s ‘who had to have witnessed his dysfunctional behavior in the past and did nothing to reel him in. By the way, when did a bodyguard’s job description include being an accomplice to a sexual assault?

Now Roethlisberger can take his place next to the recent trend of athletes who have embarrassed their team, their league, themselves, and anyone associated with them with his destructive behavior. He is fortunate to have only been sacked by the NFL for his personal fouls.