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Old 07-26-2009, 01:22 PM   #1
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Default Big Ben’s fans standing by their man

(I'm not sure where to put this one since it's not about Big Ben being sued but is instead about how Steeler Nation is reacting to it. - mesa)

Big Ben’s fans standing by their man
By Bill Vidonic, Times Staff

Published: Saturday, July 25, 2009 11:11 PM EDT

AMBRIDGE — From the reaction of excited fans outside Moe Rubenstein Stadium in Ambridge on Friday evening, you would never have known that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been shrouded in controversy.

Just before 6:30 p.m., Roethlisberger drove up to the stadium and hopped out of a black SUV as hundreds of fans clapped loudly and cheered.

Big Ben smiled and briefly waved before he quickly vaulted down some steps toward the stadium field, with a camera crew close behind.

Roethlisberger was in Ambridge for the taping of the ABC-TV reality show, “Shaq Vs.,” in which Cleveland Cavaliers’ Shaquille O’Neal is competing against other athletes in their own sports. In the show taped Friday, O’Neal competed against Roethlisberger for a show that will air in August.

A little more than a week away from the start of Steelers training camp, coming off a Super Bowl championship season, the star quarterback has found himself in the national spotlight with accusations of sexual assault.

A Nevada woman, Andrea McNulty, filed a civil lawsuit against Roethlisberger on July 17, claiming he sexually assaulted her last year in a hotel room.

Roethlisberger, 27, said Thursday the allegations are “reckless and false.”

“I would never, ever force myself on a woman,” he said, and vowed to fight the claim in court.

Roethlisberger could only hope to find 12 jurors as supportive as the fans who stood outside Ambridge High School waiting to get into the stadium for the reality show taping.

“Without hard proof, I don’t believe anything (McNulty) is saying,” said Bonnie Bennett of Ambridge. She and her daughter, Rena Fox, an Ambridge eighth-grader, had been waiting outside the stadium since about 2 p.m. Friday, some five hours before the gates opened.

Rena, 14, wore a Roethlisberger jersey and simply said of him, “He’s cool.” Bennett said her daughter didn’t know of the accusations.

Thomas Brown, 21, of Bridgeville, said he wasn’t worried about Roethlisberger’s mind being elsewhere as the football season quickly approaches.

“I don’t think it will distract him at all,” Brown said. Brown pointed out that Roethlisberger has started out a season under less-than-optimal circumstances. In 2006, Roethlisberger suffered facial injuries after he crashed his motorcycle in Pittsburgh.

Matthew Vonkaenel of Sewickley waited patiently for a peek of Big Ben, the 7-year-old wearing a tiny replica of Roethlisberger’s uniform shirt.

His mom, Susie Vonkaenel, said Matthew hasn’t asked her any questions about the accusations yet, but if he does, “Yes, I’d be concerned.”

Matthew watches portions of the last Super Bowl every day, his parents said. He said his favorite Steeler is Santonio Holmes. (Sounds like the young man is being properly raised to be a good Steelers fan. - mesa)

As to Roethlisberger’s accuser, Matthew’s dad, Dave, said, “She’s trying to make some money,” and Susie Vonkaenel added, “It’s a shame that it’s at (Roethlisberger’s) expense.”

Andrew Helgeson, 11, of McCandless Township, said that as quarterback, Roethlisberger is the leader of the team and “the team should support Ben while all this is happening.”

His grandmother, Mary Anne Helgeson, also of McCandless Township, said, “He’s innocent until proven guilty, in my book.” (Actually he still be innocent even if he loses, which he won't, since there is no criminal case. - mesa)

The Rev. Sidney B. Walker of the First Ministry Baptist Church in Leetsdale said that just the accusation lodged against Roethlisberger “casts a shadow, just the intimation of it.”

Children hold professional athletes in “highest esteem,” Walker said, and sometimes athletes feel “we can do what we want.”

Walker’s wife, Julie, said she didn’t believe the accusations, that “it’s probably all about money.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Old 07-26-2009, 01:39 PM   #2

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Default Re: Big Ben’s fans standing by their man

Great to hear the vocal support for him already. It'll be a big help to him in this coming season knowing his fans are behind him and supporting him.
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Old 07-27-2009, 03:41 AM   #3
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Default Re: Big Ben’s fans standing by their man

He will catch the heat when he plays away from Pittsburgh. I think he will overcome it and play like the Ben we know.
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Old 07-27-2009, 04:10 AM   #4
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Default Re: Big Ben’s fans standing by their man

Originally Posted by Galax Steeler View Post
He will catch the heat when he plays away from Pittsburgh. I think he will overcome it and play like the Ben we know.
Yeah. I think it's gonna have the same effect on him as the "Crosby Sucks" chants in Philly/Washington have had on Sid. Look for some big road performances out of Ben this season.
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Old 07-27-2009, 06:37 AM   #5
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Default Re: Big Ben’s fans standing by their man

Awesome to see the show of support for Ben! Ben is the consummate professional and will rise above all of this drama. Sometimes, a trauma turned triumph can make a person stronger.

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Old 07-27-2009, 09:47 AM   #6
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Default Re: Big Ben’s fans standing by their man

This is all fuel to the fire. Our team will rally around Ben and turn this into another reason to win #7!!! It will be an "us against the world" kind of thing. If we need a reason to stay focused and driven this is it!!!!!
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