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Old 08-09-2009, 06:35 AM   #1
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Default Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with the price of fame

Ben Roethlisberger quickly learned that with success came hysteria.

Not even two months into his pro career, Mr. Roethlisberger piloted his fifth win as the Steelers' quarterback in as many starts, against the New England Patriots, and went out afterward for a night on the town. Mike Iriti, who had known Mr. Roethlisberger since he was a stringy fifth-grader in Findlay, Ohio, accompanied him.

As they walked up the stairs of a North Shore bar, a woman grabbed Mr. Roethlisberger's arm -- then fainted.

"And I almost died laughing," Mr. Iriti recalled in a recent interview in Findlay.

"It's Ben! But she sees him as this ungodly superstar phenomenon. That was my first glimpse of, Holy crap, this is what he has to go through every day. I wouldn't want to deal with that."

Mr. Roethlisberger has achieved incredible success -- two Super Bowl championships -- and wealth -- a $102 million contract, signed last year -- in a city that lionizes its sports heroes like few others.

The constant adulation has been both boon and burden for the 27-year-old superstar, whose off-field life was further complicated last month when a Nevada woman filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexually assaulting her when he was in Reno for a golf tournament last year.

The quarterback has denied the allegations, and those close to him said the accuser's story does not sound like the Ben they know.

But there are far fewer people who really know Mr. Roethlisberger now than when Pittsburgh first reached out to touch him.

Away from the football field, Mr. Roethlisberger can be remarkably generous with money and time for charitable causes, yet stingy and curt with service industry workers. He is warm with those closest to him, yet keeps a tight inner circle and is zealously protective of his privacy.

A couple of years ago, Mr. Roethlisberger's former basketball coach and athletic director at Findlay High School, Jerry Snodgrass, told his former pupil he was amazed at the power Mr. Roethlisberger had to do good in the world.

"And do bad also," Mr. Roethlisberger responded.

"I was glad to see him go through what pro sports make you -- fame, fortune, whatever -- and understand the power he had from that," Mr. Snodgrass said. "I always felt he was in control of that and always knew the consequences."

The eventual consequences of the lawsuit, which is in its early stages, are unclear. But it created a news media firestorm as the Steelers began training camp for Mr. Roethlisberger's sixth season. An employee of Harrah's Lake Tahoe Resort claimed Mr. Roethlisberger had sex with her even though she begged him not to. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.

The woman said the alleged assault occurred when Mr. Roethlisberger was attending the American Century Celebrity golf tournament last year. She did not file criminal charges against Mr. Roethlisberger.

The quarterback's complicated life was on display July 24, the day he made his first public appearances since the sex-assault allegations surfaced. Early in the afternoon he read a prepared statement vowing to fight the allegations, calling them "reckless and false," and took no questions from reporters.

Hours later he taped a segment of Shaquille O'Neal's reality show for ABC-TV before thousands of fans in Ambridge, some of whom had waited three hours to catch a glimpse of him.

But what was not on display also illustrated the intensely private young man. Behind the scenes at the TV shoot, Mr. Roethlisberger was hosting young patients from the Ronald McDonald House, giving special attention to a transplant patient from Kenya, a young boy who did not know who the football superstar was.

He has supported the charity since early in his career, when he began paying for catered Christmas and New Year's feasts at the Shadyside facility. Lately he has taken on more responsibility, becoming the honorary chairman of its capital campaign. A portion of sales proceeds from his barbecue sauce goes to the charity.

Then there is the money Mr. Roethlisberger, a dog lover, gives to K-9 police and fire units around Pittsburgh, Findlay and the cities where the Steelers play on the road. Since late 2006 his foundation has given $246,000 to some 35 K-9 agencies and will donate more during this fall's road schedule, according to the Giving Back Fund, a Los Angeles-based philanthropy that oversees the foundation. In April, he received an award from the NFL Players Association for charity work in an event benefiting the Special Olympics.

While burnishing that image, he has simultaneously earned a reputation for sometimes boorish behavior on the Pittsburgh nightlife scene. Stories abound about a young man who refuses to pay cover charges, is aloof to fans and is petulant to bartenders, who consistently describe him as a customer lacking in courtesy and manners.

"I have been stunned at the number of people who have come up to me, out of the blue, and said 'What's up with Ben Roethlisberger? He's such a jerk,' " said former KDKA-TV sports anchor John Steigerwald.

One of the places where he has refused to pay to enter is the Cabana Bar in Pine, which he has frequented since moving to the North Hills in 2006. His argument -- which is undoubtedly true -- is his presence will drive other patrons to the bar, but some chafe at his demands for special treatment.

"I hate even to have to root for the Steelers when he's the quarterback," said bar owner Mark Baranowski. "Appreciate the people -- don't think you're above them all. It really makes me sick."

Mr. Roethlisberger, through the Steelers, denied a request to be interviewed for this story.

Many stories about Mr. Roethlisberger's carousing stem from his 2004 rookie year, when the first-round draft pick went out regularly to South Side bars. Having left Miami of Ohio after his junior year, he was leading the team to a 13-0 record as a starter -- and setting an increasingly obsessed Steeler Nation on its ear -- at the age of a college senior.

The superstitious Mr. Roethlisberger kept going to the bars because the team was winning and he was afraid of breaking the streak. On some Mondays at Jack's, especially late in the season, he drank water, said bartender Scot McGrath. He then would go to Casey's Draft House, sitting in the back with friends and largely keeping to himself, according to a Pittsburgh police officer who worked the door.

Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis said he's often witnessed the intense female attention Mr. Roethlisberger inevitably draws.

"There's a lot of downside to that, because you don't know what their intentions are," Mr. Bettis said. "It's hard for some people to conceptualize that it happens on a regular basis. When all those qualities are there -- a recognizable guy, good looking guy, single guy, wealthy guy -- all those things kind of add to women finding themselves clutching on you. He's always handling himself well."

During the run-up to the team's Super Bowl win after the 2005 season, pictures of Mr. Roethlisberger -- looking cross-eyed and pouring tequila into a female companion's mouth -- hit the Web. He wore a T-shirt saying, "Drink Like A Champion Today." He looked every bit the rich young superstar, but was doing nothing illicit, which may be why major Pittsburgh news outlets ignored the photos. (Mr. Roethlisberger has no criminal record, with only traffic charges stemming from his 2006 motorcycle accident.)

He still hits the South Side, where he held bar crawls with friends the past two summers. Right tackle Willie Colon, who socializes with Mr. Roethlisberger, said the constant attention is "tough on him. It is. Sometimes he may get a bad rap because he's not as welcoming, but at the same time he's a human being and he deserves his privacy and his time to let go. I think everybody who's a fan should respect that."

Not every fan does.

It's easy to tell when Mr. Roethlisberger arrives at a bar, says Greg Parrotto, of Grazie restaurant in Pine, which is adjacent to the Cabana Bar. First come the camera flashes. Then, after patrons telephone or send text messages to friends, 200 to 300 people will show up within the half-hour. The same thing happens when the quarterback shops at Home Depot.

"He walks through the door and people will start calling," Ken Roethlisberger, Ben's father, said. "We'll be places and all of a sudden people will show up with a football -- a store, where somebody wouldn't normally be carrying a football. We've seen people run to stores to buy something and show back up to get an autograph. And he's not the kind to turn people away, so the best thing you can do is get out of there as quick as you can."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09221/989721-66.stm
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Old 08-09-2009, 08:45 AM   #2
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Default Re: Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with the price of fame

It doesn't even mention the time someone waved a gun in his face and that's when he decided to go out with bodyguards.......just to save him from his "fans". We all think the celebrity life would be great, but there's that downside to the fame. My aunt saw him at restaurant up in the mountions in Pa. while they were at hunting camp. They would have loved an autograph but left him alone.
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:34 PM   #3
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Default Re: Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with the price of fame

Ben wouldn't have the reputation for "being a jerk" if he played in a big city where people would leave him alone in social situations. I spend a lot of time in New York City and run into famous people all the time in stores, on the street, etc. The residents leave them alone and let them go about their lives; it's the tourists who act like idiots, expecting them to drop everything and be "on the clock" to pose for pictures and sign autographs. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and I understand how Pittsburghers expect to have ownership over their Steelers to the point where it must be incredibly intrusive.

Most of the people who call Ben a jerk are probably among the hordes who try to get his autograph at the grocery store, or when he's trying to relax with friends at dinner, or sticking a cellphone camera in his face when he shows up at a bar to hang out with his buddies. If he acts rude (and even his own father said in the article that he's not the type to turn people away), it's probably because he just wants a little privacy once in awhile and doesn't like people in his face all the time.

I get it that until Ben came along, Pittsburgh hadn't had a superstar quarterback since Terry Bradshaw, but for crying out loud, let the kid have a little peace, and a little bit of a private life. I think he's earned it.
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:43 PM   #4
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Default Re: Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with the price of fame

I should also add, the refusal to pay a cover charge at the North Hills bar is a jerky thing to do, no question. What, he can't afford the cover? I don't care if 500 people show up just because he's there, it makes him look petty and small if he refuses to pay just because he is who he is.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:17 AM   #5
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Default Re: Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with the price of fame

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Originally Posted by alittlejazzbird View Post
Ben wouldn't have the reputation for "being a jerk" if he played in a big city where people would leave him alone in social situations. I spend a lot of time in New York City and run into famous people all the time in stores, on the street, etc. The residents leave them alone and let them go about their lives; it's the tourists who act like idiots, expecting them to drop everything and be "on the clock" to pose for pictures and sign autographs. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and I understand how Pittsburghers expect to have ownership over their Steelers to the point where it must be incredibly intrusive.

Most of the people who call Ben a jerk are probably among the hordes who try to get his autograph at the grocery store, or when he's trying to relax with friends at dinner, or sticking a cellphone camera in his face when he shows up at a bar to hang out with his buddies. If he acts rude (and even his own father said in the article that he's not the type to turn people away), it's probably because he just wants a little privacy once in awhile and doesn't like people in his face all the time.

I get it that until Ben came along, Pittsburgh hadn't had a superstar quarterback since Terry Bradshaw, but for crying out loud, let the kid have a little peace, and a little bit of a private life. I think he's earned it.
Chances are, it's probably a bunch of Yinzers who think that Ben is an asshole, and have stories about the time he blew them off when they asked for an autograph while he was buying groceries, or stuck a camera phone in his face while he was eating at a restaurant.

Key differences between Pittsburghers and Yinzers:

1. Pittsburghers mind their own business. Yinzers spread gossip.
2. Pittsburghers admire their favorite local athletes. Yinzers stalk them.
3. Pittsburghers realize there are 320,000 people in the city proper, and 2.4M in the metro area. Yinzers pretend they live in a "small tahn," and rarely venture outside their neighborhoods/suburbs.
4. Pittsburghers are proud of their city and region, and do their best to be good ambassadors to out-of-towners. Yinzers view out-of-towners with suspicion.
5. Pittsburghers say, "Welcome to Pittsburgh!" Yinzers say, "Why here?"
6. Pittsburghers are open-minded. Yinzers don't even like people of European ethnicities other than their own, let alone blacks, Asians or Latinos.
7. Pittsburghers take vacations all across the country, and all around the world. Yinzers travel no farther south or east than Ocean City, no farther north than Niagara Falls, and no farther west than Columbus, OH.
8. Pittsburghers appreciate Pittsburgh for what it is, what it was, and what it will be. Yinzers appreciate "Pittsburgh" only as a now-dated cliche that originated sometime between 1975 and 1985.

While the Yinzer culture may be unique, it can also be a serious drawback, and often makes the entire city and region look like a bunch of oafs. Thankfully, the Yinzer stranglehold on local culture has loosened a good bit in the last 10 to 15 years.
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Old 08-10-2009, 06:51 AM   #6
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Default Re: Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with the price of fame

I've always felt that if you're over the age of 12 and asking for an autograph you are a very desperate person. I've never understood the concept of the autograph. So what they're worth a hundred bucks or whatever... like that's going to feed my family anyway.

If Ben walked into a bar I was in I'd probably say "Hey there's Ben. Cool." and go on about my business. If the opportunity fell into my lap I might offer to buy him a beer, but I wouldn't bother the guy.
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Old 08-10-2009, 07:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with the price of fame

Another thing Ben needs to become aware of is that since he is a celebrity/athlete, ladies that he might consider one-night-stands might think they are going to become something more than that. That woman in Nevada obviously thought if she could sleep with him, she'd somehow become his girlfriend or at least be invited to the Burgh to sit in his seats at a home game or two. After she never heard from him, she apparently decided to fake a rape story to get his attention or possibly some $$$. Live and learn!
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Old 08-10-2009, 07:38 AM   #8
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Default Re: Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with the price of fame

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I've always felt that if you're over the age of 12 and asking for an autograph you are a very desperate person. I've never understood the concept of the autograph. So what they're worth a hundred bucks or whatever... like that's going to feed my family anyway.

If Ben walked into a bar I was in I'd probably say "Hey there's Ben. Cool." and go on about my business. If the opportunity fell into my lap I might offer to buy him a beer, but I wouldn't bother the guy.
I agree with you. I've never been an auotgraph hound and don't really understand the need to have someone's signature.
My friends and I used to play pick-up basketball games with Franco and Preston Pearson on a regular basis back in the 70's and not once did any of us bother to ask for an autograph.
Franco used to say that he liked coming to this out of the way park (Williamsburg Park in Mt. Lebanon) because everyone just treated him like a regular guy as opposed to being a celebrity.
Although I'd like to have Big Ben's wealth, I certainly wouldn't want his fame.
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Old 08-10-2009, 08:02 AM   #9
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Default Re: Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with the price of fame

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Originally Posted by WeegiesWarriors View Post
I've always felt that if you're over the age of 12 and asking for an autograph you are a very desperate person. I've never understood the concept of the autograph. So what they're worth a hundred bucks or whatever... like that's going to feed my family anyway.

If Ben walked into a bar I was in I'd probably say "Hey there's Ben. Cool." and go on about my business. If the opportunity fell into my lap I might offer to buy him a beer, but I wouldn't bother the guy.
For me it's not about selling the autograph but about capturing the moment. But there is also a tactful way to do it. If the man is out to dinner or shopping, then respect the situation, who he is with, and what he's trying to do. Don't bother him in that situation. After practice or game, and he's willing, I'm ok with that.

I use to bother athlete's for their autographs, not for sell, but for collection. However, I am past that stage although, depending on the athlete I still ask for an autograph in the correct environment. In a few weeks I will take my daughter to a pre-season game and then onward to Pittsburgh for a day. You can bet that the stop in Pittsburgh will include a stop at the South Side Training facility in hopes that she will be able to get some autographs on a football. Again, not for her to sale but for her to have her first collectable, to hold that ball in front of her children, and to tell a story about the day that she met the likes of Troy, James, Ben, Hines, Willie, etc. (and from a father's perspective so we can share a moment, never to be stolen, and that I may live vicariously through her as she meets her Steelers and that I may rejoice in the eletricity that will inevitably flow through her body - and that I may share in that)!
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Old 08-10-2009, 08:12 AM   #10
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Default Re: Ben Roethlisberger has to deal with the price of fame

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Originally Posted by WeegiesWarriors View Post
I've always felt that if you're over the age of 12 and asking for an autograph you are a very desperate person. I've never understood the concept of the autograph. So what they're worth a hundred bucks or whatever... like that's going to feed my family anyway.

If Ben walked into a bar I was in I'd probably say "Hey there's Ben. Cool." and go on about my business. If the opportunity fell into my lap I might offer to buy him a beer, but I wouldn't bother the guy.
Exactly.

People ignore the fact that most of these athletes (who aren't AW's like Ochocinco or TO) are just ordinary people away from the sport and they want to go about living enjoying life as a "regular Joe". A few weeks back, XT, myself and a friend were eating in a restaurant in the Waterfront and Deshea Townsend was sitting in the booth behind us eating a burger and fries. I knew who he was and mentioned it to both XT and Marc but we continued to eat our salads and never approached him.
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