In news that probably wasn’t a huge surprise considering how zany the Steelers offseason has been, it was reported over the weekend that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not be doing his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan during the 2019 season.
This was met with great joy by many Steelers fans who, no doubt, think Roethlisberger’s occasional national news-making comments uttered on his show were a huge distraction.
Actually, they were—in a good way (at least for the fans). That’s right, I like it. I like the access. I like the insights. I like a juicy tidbit or two. And it’s not because I’m a writer who benefits from these stories (I can show you how much my baiting for clicks helps my bank account). It’s because I love it when my favorite sports stars let me in—I crave it, actually. And, to tell you the truth, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t yearn for such things, yourself.
This isn’t life or death. This isn’t going to make or break our lives. At the end of the day, sports are there to entertain us. They exist to, as you’re often wont to say when the dreaded p-word collides with said entertainment, help us forget the mundane and stress of our daily existence.
Yet, fans often bristle at the juicy headlines, at those “distractions.” I’m honestly so sick of hearing about distractions as they pertain to sports franchises. In my not so humble (but very irritated) opinion, distractions are overrated. Do you genuinely think any sports team’s fate is decided by what a person posts on social media or says on his or her radio show? Do you seriously believe Maurkice Pouncey’s performance on Sunday is ever affected by some questions he had to answer about a teammate the Tuesday before?
Of course you do, and this is why fans are also often dead-set against their favorite football teams appearing on reality shows like HBO’s Hard Knocks, an annual series that captures the often very entertaining training camp exploits of players and coaches as they prepare for the upcoming regular season.
Obviously, the players and coaches—mainly, the coaches—never want to be a part of things like Hard Knocks, but we, the fans, should love it.
I want to see the human side of my favorite players and coaches. I want to hear them say some very real things and not just spout off adrenaline-induced cliches such as “This is why we play the game!!!!!!!!”
This is why I watch shows like America’s Game and A Football Life. This is why I go to the library and search for books pertaining to professional sports. This is why I often search Youtube looking for clips of “Mike Tomlin Mic’d Up.” I want a look inside. I want to see the drama. I want to see the personal relationships.
If I may use the p-word, the move was political by Roethlisberger, who no doubt felt an obligation to his teammates, many of whom were often brought up on his weekly show. Of course, nobody ever cared when Roethlisberger talked about his teammates in a positive light—something that was the reality 99 percent of the time. But the second he added a juicy tidbit involving Antonio Brown running a better route or Martavis Bryant stepping up his game for the playoffs, suddenly No. 7 was a bad teammate.
In-fact, Brown appeared to be so bothered by Roethlisberger’s “flatter route” comment following the Broncos game on November 25, it apparently was a huge factor in him catching the quickest flight to Oakland (and flipping Pittsburgh the double bird in the process).
Maybe Brown was bothered by his quarterback’s comments, but anyone who watched the receiver’s behavior evolve (or devolve) in recent years knows something was eventually going to cause him to act in such a loathsome way. To quote my old boss whenever someone said, you’re driving me crazy, “Short trip.”
What may be lost on everyone who is glad Roethlisberger’s show will be no more is how inaccessible he is the majority of the time. He’s never on social media, and if I’m not mistaken, he only speaks to reporters on Wednesdays during the regular season.
And this is why, when it was announced years ago that Roethlisberger would have his own radio show, I was pleasantly surprised. Let’s face it, your average player’s radio/TV show is the bastion of the backups and the regular Joe-type players. It’s like when you go to a Burn Notice Comic Con hoping to see star Jeffrey Donovan, while knowing deep down you'll get a couple of writers and the guy who played his money-laundering buddy, Barry. No offense to the guy who played Barry, but....we’d much rather have the star.
Tidbits from stars are just so much better.
For example, had it not been for Roethlisberger’s weekly radio show, we may never have known he was contemplating retirement following the 2016 season—it may have been something we only would have learned about in a book written two decades later.
Finally, Ben Roethlisberger’s radio show—along with those “distractions”—may now be a thing of the past, but I don’t think that’s a positive at all.
I think that’s a shame.