In what will almost certainly go down as one of the year's most dignified acts of journalism, Tom Van Riper of Forbes magazine has published a list of the most disliked players in the NFL. Van Riper goes from one Pulitzer-prizewinning thought to the next in laying out the list.
"He's performed well and avoided trouble ever since [his release from federal prison]. Yet he's still stuck at or near the top of our various annual lists of Most-Disliked NFL Players...while Vick scores well with hardcore NFL fans, casual fans identify him mostly with the legal woes of a few years ago."
Not surprising, considering the existence of the list and other stories like it. Hate is one of the most clickable emotions a person can have. And that's pretty much the only reason this article was written. To procure irrational hatred by people already on the prowl for that sort of outlet to reinforce their pre-established thoughts. Sure, Vick's a jackass. Or he was. But his situation appears to have turned into a pretty good story for the league, and an even better cautionary tale to the young players that will enter the league having never been as rich and adored as they will become.
Coming in at number two is Manti Te'o. Maybe I just don't understand what happened, but didn't this guy get tricked into thinking his internet girlfriend was dead? How does that inspire hatred? Shouldn't we just feel bad for him and move on? I don't think anyone would look too smart if the most embarrassing thing they did in college became a sensationalized national news phenomenon.
At three: Ndamukong Suh. I get this one. He stomps on people and consistently put other players in harm's way. He's a great player, but come on Suh, get it together.
And then there's Ben Roethlisberger. There are only three guys on this list ahead of him. Guys like Mark Sanchez and Jay Cutler are on there, but they can't keep up with the country's disdain for Big Ben. An it's kind of hard to argue with his placement. For all the casual fan knows, Ben is a serial rapist who goes around tearing the heads of off children's toys and defecating in public playgrounds. Most people don't take time to research something they don't really care about. And as a result whatever news story made its way into the corner of their mind that houses a player's name predictably echoes in their consciousness whenever the subject is brought up.
I'm not going to claim to know what really happened in Roethlisberger's personal life. Doing so would be unfair to him and his family. But also to the people he may or may not have harmed.
Since he's the quarterback of the team I follow, and I've always enjoyed watching him play, I have convinced myself that his innocence in the eyes of the law is enough for me not to despise the very sight of him. He may not have done ANYTHING, but after the second accusation, doubt begins to creep into even the most stalwart supporter's mind. It seems like something bad must've happened somewhere down the line. I really don't know. It's a situation that remains unresolved in my mind. And typically things like that have a way of slowly evaporating due to my 21st-century attention span.
Whatever happened, and however many fans hate the guy, he appears to have gotten his life into order. He's since married and had his first child with another on the way. His faith is often on display, and that may be because of a suggestion from his PR reps, but still, it's pretty hard to argue that Roethlisberger is a loose cannon at the moment.
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