Sunday, March 7, 2010

Big Ben and Jacko: Some Fools Never Learn

Late Friday afternoon, I went to B.M. Wexford's co-office to ask a favor. Being a fellow native Pittsburgher and Steeler fanatic (redundant?), he swiveled his computer screen and flashed me the latest TMZ report on Ben Roethlisberger's latest legal woes. As you probably know by now, Big Ben is the subject of a criminal investigation over whether or not he "sexually assaulted or sexually manipulated" a 20-year-old college student in Milledgeville, GA, last Thursday night.

Like many of you, I'm sure, I was shocked and not shocked at the same time. A bunch of us stood around talking about it, contemplating Roethlisberger's guilt. Then, a book I'd recently read at work, Ian Halperin's Unmasked. kept popping into my head.

Unmasked is a morbidly fascinating, unauthorized biography of Michael Jackson's last two decades on this Earth. I don't know how much of this book is true, but, if Unmasked is even half true, MJ lived one of the most tragic lives a celebrity could have ever lived.

As you'd expect, most of the book focused on Jackson's child molestation allegations. Halperin began the book project, convinced MJ was a pedophile, and claimed he was determined to prove it in this book. The problem was he couldn't prove it; he couldn't really find any convincing evidence; and ended the book pretty convinced the Jackson, indeed, was not a pedophile.

Now, I've been a Jackson hater for most of my life, but I've always been skeptical about MJ the Child Molester. I mean, all those kids over at Neverland, all those sleepovers, yet all they could find were two allegations out of thousands upon thousands of families. And those two accusations came from families that were incredibly shady.

But Michael's guilt or innocence don't really matter all that much. He's dead, after all. We'll never really know. And our feelings about Jackson's guilt will probably mirror our feelings about what we felt about what Jackson had become these last 25 years. The other reason it doesn't matter is that, like it or not, the word "pedophile" will always be attached to Michael Jackson's name. After all, the man had been accused twice of the same crime and, as the Governator said when he had to deal with sexual harassment allegations, "where there's smoke there's fire." No matter what you think of Jackson, you will always be wondering about those allegations, defending those allegations, or dismissing them as pure bullshit. However, they will always be connected to your memories of Michael Jackson.

The same thing is about to happen to Ben Roethlisberger. Yeah, his first accuser, Andrea McNulty, brought a very strange civil suit against Big Ben last year. She never went to the police nor the hospital; she waited a year to file a civil instead of a criminal case; and she was asking for only $100,000 from a multimillionaire who supposedly raped her. It was all very bizarre and left us with a lot of room to doubt the woman's claims.

But this one, while also a bit strange, is harder to ignore. He's seen all over town with this 20-year-old college student. She goes immediately to the police and the hospital. There are tons of witnesses seeing them together. And this is the second time Roethlisberger has been accused in less than a year. What did Schwartzenegger say again? Oh yeah, right. "Where there's smoke there's fire."

Presuming, for the moment, that Roethlisberger's innocent, I have the same question I had when reading about Jackson: What the hell were you thinking?

For Jackson, after getting gamed by Jordan Chandler's parents (the father having committed suicide last fall) back in '94, his name being dragged through the mud, and his insurance company having paid millions to have it all go away, you would've thought that Jackson would never have had another kid at Neverland ever again. Or, if he did, he'd do it around tons of eyewitnesses, parents in every nook and cranny, and, as soon as the street lights came on, he'd grab a megaphone, and scream, "All right, everybody! Get the fuck out! Don't let the door hit ya where the Lord split ya!"

No more private meetings, no more watching movies together, and never, ever, ever would he have another sleepover.

You would think that Jackson would've realized that he was a target, and, while it would've been a victory for cynicism, he would've severely changed his behavior. So, he'd never have to relive that nightmare.

You'd think the same would apply to Roethlisberger. If he is, indeed, of either or both charges, you've got to wonder what the hell he was doing at that club. What was he doing, at 28, hanging out with that 20-year-old woman? Has the tragedy of Steve McNair taught him nothing? Doesn't Big Ben realize that he'd be a target. After all, everybody would be thinking, "Where there's smoke there's fire."

You'd think that, before Ben even thought about kissing a woman, he'd have his private investigators provide him with family genealogies, high school and/or college transcripts, character witnesses' testimony, and blood work-ups. You'd think that, with civil charges hanging over his head, he'd either be spending the off-season in a monastery or simply not even coming anywhere close to any woman he hasn't known for at least the last decade. In other words, he--and Michael--should've remained utterly and completely above all suspicion.

Now, for Jackson, his Peter Pan fixation is a bit more understandable. He never really did have much of a childhood. What he did have was filled with fame and terrifying abuse. People have done nothing but want, want, want from the man since he was pre-pubescent. Folks have lived off of him since the same time. There were few people he knew who did not try to exploit him. And there were even fewer around who didn't screw him over at some point and betray his trust.

He must not have been able to trust even the most innocent human interaction. Children, while not totally without guile, are so innocent that you can often see their guile a mile away. Children were probably the only people Michael Jackson could ever trust in his world. So, in a way, even if Jackson were not a pedophile, you can understand why he just couldn't keep the kiddies out of his life.

But what about Ben? What was his excuse? Yeah, yeah. Guys think with their dicks. But we also think with our wallets. We also think with our lungs, which generally don't like being exposed to stale prison air. We also can think with our rectums, many of which don't want to be exposed to prison love.

In some ways, it's easier to understand if Roethlisberger is actually guilty of one or both of the supposed incidents. It makes more sense that he's an uncontrollable sexual predator who needs to have his ass thrown in jail. After all, why else would a man who's facing a civil charge for sexual assault turn around and sexually assault yet another woman in a public bathroom? It's utterly psychotic.

Or, if innocent, completely moronic. Roethlisberger should've realized he has a big target on his chest. He should've been nowhere near those women. So, if he's not guilty of sexual assault and/or sexual manipulation (could someone please explain that one to me?), he is most definitely guilty of some incredibly poor judgment. That, too, is believable. He does have a history of such reckless behavior. But with whatever happened in Milledgeville, I'm starting to wonder what else "Big Ben" has a history of. 'Cause we all know what word will now forever be attached to the name "Ben Roethlisberger."

1 comment:

nunya said...

Ultimately the answer is "we weren't there, we don't know."