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If you don't enjoy this story, you either take sports way too seriously or plain have no sense of humor. Probably both. As you might know, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has already had a troubling off-season. The two-time Super Bowl champ faced sexual assault charges, later dropped, leading to his suspension for the start of next season.
That's not the fun part.
Roethlisberger, whose suspension will be cut from six games to four if he complies with NFL policy (a.k.a. not pissing off league commissioner Roger Goddell), went golfing with friends last Friday in Dublin, Ohio. Somewhere between the 17th green and 18th tee of the Country Club at Muirfield Village, there was an incident. That much is certain. Precisely what happened next, although football scholars and historians will be debating it for decades, we may never know. One fact, however, is indisputable. The Dublin police confirmed that a member of Ben Roethlisberger's golf party was caught urinating behind a tree.
How awesome is that?
Apparently, someone answered nature's call a bit too close to one of the private homes lining the golf course. The lady of the house, perhaps outside pruning a bush, witnessed the event. Inexplicably, she was not happy to have a man urinate in her backyard. In fact, clearly being a woman with huge hang-ups about the human body, she called the police-who arrived after Roethlisberger and guests had already left the grounds.
Here, the dark fog of conspiracy grows thick. Multiple reports alleged that Roethlisberger was the guilty wizzer, but the Dublin police issued a denial, claiming another golfer in the party was the real perp. Given that the police arrived after Roethlisberger's group left, how exactly would they know? Clearly, a threesome out of Ben's foursome is covering for the one pee-taker.
But what if Ben did autograph a tree with pee? Big deal. If Brett Favre was caught whizzing on a golf course, people would cheer his boyish love of the game. The guys may have had a few beers. Men have needs, don't they?
They do, and one of Ben's most pressing needs is to avoid just this sort of public embarrassment.
Even before this incident, reports the very fine Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch, Roethlisberger was denied a tee time at the more prestigious Muirfield Village course across the street. Baptist's source at Muirfield said Ben's "reputation proceeds him."
Ouch. Dude. That hurts. An Ohio native and Miami of Ohio legend with two Super Bowl wins who gets dissed by an Ohio golf course has more than PR issues.
But let's pretend Ben wasn't the urinating party. That doesn't let him off the hook. Imagine Roethlisberger sitting primly in Roger Goodell's office, high above Park Avenue.
"But commissioner! It wasn't me. It was only one of my drinking buddies."
Sorry, Pittsburghers. It's time for you to get excited about six weeks of Charlie Batch.
The wildly satisfying aspect of the story, though, is how delightfully inconsequential it all is. Whether or not Roethlisberger peed in public, he will return to the field this year. Even if he didn't for some reason, the Steelers will still line-up and play. In fact, the team will continue to knock heads each fall, give or take the occasional strike and lockout, until long after Roethlisberger retires and children not yet born are sick of hearing dad talk about him.
Yet, for a few days, fans from every conceivable walk of life will unite for an exhaustive and absurdly overheated national debate over the Great Ben Roethlisberger Urinating Scandal. Beautiful. The whole point of following sports, after all, is that they don't matter. Not that we don't care what happens to our favorite teams and athletes. But the Roethlisberger pee saga, for instance, will have precisely zero effect on BP's efforts to the contain the gulf oil spill. By the same token, it's very unlikely the LeBron James move to Miami will impact the Middle East peace process.
Sometimes, of course, the real world intrudes. Roethlisberger's tale isn't all silliness. Accusations of sexual assault are serious business. When a sports story becomes serious, though, a change occurs. The moment things get real—at the very instant a sports story touches on issues that count, it stops being sports at all, automatically changing into the news. The news, as everybody knows, is absolutely no fun at all.