Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Raping the Rewards

Maybe the prosecutor in Milledgeville didn’t have the evidence necessary to prove Ben Roethlisberger guilty of sexual assault but after reviewing the records released to the media I, as an officer of the court of public opinion feel quite comfortable in offering up my verdict: Ben Roethlisberger is a rapist.

20 years ago I took a required course that was intended to introduce me to the college experience. I didn’t pay much attention but one thing that was driven home was the concept of rape. We’re not talking about the brutal first degree brand of rape that leaves women battered, bloody and in need of serious medical attention, but the subtle victimization of women that occurs when horny guys try to ply women with booze and drugs.

That’s clearly what Ben was up to when he ordered up round after round of flavorful shots commanding the women invited to hang with his posse, “Drink my shots, bitches.”

Ben’s Georgia victim didn’t even use the word rape to describe what he did even though her description includes Ben exposing himself and then following her to a bathroom and locking the door. She told him that she didn’t think it was a good idea but Ben persisted and had sex with her. Ultimately it was her friends who called the cops.

Based on the lessons learned in my college experience class I feel quite comfortable in assessing this as rape. The girl was drunk, Ben encouraged her to get drunk for the sole purpose of having sex with her. He isolated her from her friends, pressured her for intimate contact and ignored her reservations. That’s rape.

When I took this class I didn’t like the implications, but I was 18 and looking at it from the perspective of being a guy who might start making out with an equally inebriated girl of the same age and end up having sex. I didn’t like the notion that I had to judge her level of intoxication when I couldn’t see straight.

Now I realize that this type of rape isn’t about a couple of drunk college students fumbling through an ill-advised sexual encounter. It’s about guys like Ben Roethlisberger: guys who feed women alcohol until their judgment is severely impaired so they are more likely to get sex when they impose their will.

People have been yapping about Ben’s bad behavior for a while. He’s been called irresponsible, childish, disgusting, and comparisons have been drawn to unsavory animals. Everybody seems eager to condemn him but nobody is telling it like it is. Ben is a rapist. That’s says it all. He believes that women are his for the taking. Sadly, Ben, like so many other famous guys, has throngs of groupies who will eagerly do his sexual bidding without the need for coercion…why not pick one of them?

Because Ben’s a rapist. He doesn’t want sex as much as he wants to physically dominate a woman.

I don’t know what that means. Maybe his mom was a little overzealous with the rectal thermometer when he was a kid. Perhaps he had a domineering older sister who dressed him up like Strawberry Shortcake. Maybe Ben’s secretly gay and expresses his anger over being forced to hide it by abusing women. Who knows?

What we do know is that Ben Roethlisberger raped a girl in Georgia and then hired a legal team to harass the victim and any witnesses. Video evidence in the form of security footage from the club was ‘accidentally’ erased when police investigators requested it. The whole story is shady. Ultimately Ben’s accuser decided not to press charges and indicated that she did not want to testify in court for fear of being made to look bad. Ben’s legal team, which included undercover campus operatives hired by a private detective, made it clear that character assassination would be the order of the day.

So Ben got away with rape. He’ll face no criminal charges at this time and short of that it’s unlikely his hundred million dollar contract will be voided. He’ll play on and get paid handsomely for it.

If I were Ben, I’d be worried. Surely this isn’t the first time he forced himself on a woman (besides the tart in Reno who went straight for the civil suit). Eventually other women will come forward. Is there a cheerleader in high school Ben got a little rough with? Could there be some sorority sister from Miami that can recount a night where Ben wouldn’t take “no” for an answer? People who remember Ben from high school and college don’t do so fondly. Tales of Big Ben the bully and Big Ben the binge drinker out-number recollections of a humble kid living the dream.

Surely this girl in Georgia has a daddy and she might even have a brother or two. Maybe the cops didn’t have enough evidence to substantiate the accusation but dads and brothers don’t deal in reasonable doubt. Do you suppose that Ben might leave the Pittsburgh practice facility one day this summer only to have a discussion with an angry father and his tire iron?

The NFL has seen enough to take action and Ben will serve a suspension. The Steelers aren’t happy either but they don’t seem willing to part with their Super Bowl Champion quarterback just yet. There’s a lot of tough talk coming from the Rooney family but they seem content to ride out the bad press until the start of the season.

None of this is good enough but Ben manipulated the system and avoided criminal charges. Legally speaking, he’s a free man. Legally speaking, he’s done nothing wrong. Fair enough, but the court of public opinion doesn’t deal in legality. There are no technicalities. As far as this court is concerned, Ben Roethlisberger is a rapist but he’s also a victim.

I’m not suggesting we feel sorry for Ben. He’s 28 and he’s had plenty of time to put on the big boy pants and act like a man. He’s opted to behave like a spoiled teenager. He likes his fast motorcycle and doesn’t like to wear a helmet. Ben likes to get drunk and hang out with his homeboys, but he’s not a big fan of charity events. Ben believes women are his personal specimen cups and doesn’t understand the word “no”. This is all the product of our sport culture. Parents, coaches, friends and counselors treat athletic prodigies differently. Ben was a top notch athlete at a young age and he was afforded a lot of latitude. Grades were adjusted, discipline was muted and Ben was permitted to get away with acting like somebody half his age. So is it any wonder that the 28-year-old QB behaves like a 14-year-old whose parents are away on business?

Somethings got to change. It starts with not giving Ben the benefit of the doubt because he was able to use slick lawyering to undermine the criminal justice system but it ends by doing away with the double standard and treating jocks like everybody else.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Toyota Hoax

There’s something fishy about James Sikes’ story. The California motorist claims his Toyota Prius suffered a malfunction that wouldn’t allow him to slow down. With the car accelerating in excess of 80 miles per hour he reached down and tried to pull the accelerator up in order to get the car under control.

He called 911 where an operator implored him to shift the car into neutral. Sikes didn’t say anything, but later claimed that he was reticent to shift into neutral for fear of “flipping” the car.

This doesn’t add up. Sikes is 61 which means he’s been driving a long time. I’m sure at some point he had to push a car and if so he would have realized that neutral is, well, neutral. It’s not another gear, nor does it feature a drive train-locking mechanism like ‘park’. If Sikes simply forgot the neutral nature of the neutral shifter position then he’s an incompetent driver who should be fined as such.

All vehicles are subject to malfunction and it is the driver’s responsibility to be prepared to deal with his vehicle in the event of such a malfunction. Sike’s betrayed the public trust betowed upon him when he was issued his license by failing to deal with his malfunctioning Toyota Prius in a calm, cool and collected manor.

Allegedly Malfunctioning.

This story is a little too convenient. Sikes claims he went to Toyota to get his accelerator fixed but was told that his car isn’t on the recall list. Shortly thereafter Sikes is on national TV reenacting a scene from Speed in his hybrid. The networks jump all over the story and Sikes has been interviewed more times than Drew Brees after the Super Bowl. It’s too perfect.

Let me be among the first to call bullshit on the whole story. Look, I don’t own a Toyota and I have no interest in their stock doing well. They screwed up and no they’re paying the price. They’re getting what they deserved.

But Sikes has gone too far. I think this is a hoax. Sikes wants his cut and he either faked the malfunction or he rigged his accelerator to fail on the highway. When the 911 operator undermined his 15 minutes with the simple solution of putting the car in neutral, Sikes panicked and simply ignored the instruction. When the instruction was repeated, he continued to ignore. After the car was finally brought to a stop, Sikes came up with the lame excuse of flipping the car as a reason not to shift out of gear.

There’s a possibility that Sikes’ Toyota went haywire. Maybe Toyota was hoping to keep its popular hybrid out of the fray and another chicken came home to roost, but Sikes’ brush with disaster was too neatly packaged.

I’m going to put myself out there and say that in three or four months, Sikes might be facing criminal charges. He’ll be tagged as a hoaxer and because he let his scam play out on a public highway, Sikes will be charged with reckless endangerment in addition to the various fraud charges the courts will throw at him.

Granted, I’ve got nothing to lose if I’m wrong so it’s pretty easy to play devil’s advocate, but there’s a lot of stink coming off of Sikes. I think he’s a fraud.