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Ben Roethlisberger, hiding in plain sight

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Head Ninja
Head Ninja

Joined: 20 Mar 2017
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 2:50 am    Post subject: Ben Roethlisberger, hiding in plain sight Reply with quote

After the loss, the Steelers, wet with sweat and rain, stream into the tunnel of Heinz Field. Their faces register disgust, distress or disillusionment -- or all three -- as they file into the locker room following a 30-9 dismantling by Jacksonville. Le'Veon Bell locks his eyes on the floor, Martavis Bryant shakes his head, David DeCastro winces. Only one player enters with his helmet still on. You can't see his eyes. You can't read him at all.
Ben Roethlisberger prefers to stay hidden.
Sometimes he hides behind masks, other times behind doors. Most often, behind his words.
In the minutes following what was, perhaps, the worst outing in his 14 years in the league, he emerges from the shower and takes a seat in front of his locker. There's a purple bruise on his thigh. Another at the top of his back, below the spot where he had a Chinese symbol tattooed near his shoulder. Scratches, bright pink and fresh, bloom on his waist just above his towel -- new tokens of another NFL Sunday in a lifetime full of them.
He slips on a pair of dark jeans, straps an Apple Watch to his wrist, drops his keys into his pocket, and turns around to face the onslaught. Roethlisberger will try to make sense of his five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. He'll try to offer answers for why he threw 55 times but never once for six points. He'll try to explain how he became the first quarterback ever to manage that exact combination of futility in a single game.
"Somebody, please," he implores a mob of reporters that has tightened its ring around him, but not yet posed a question. At his prodding, though, the interrogation comes. And a moment later, the reckoning.
"Maybe I don't have it anymore," he says.
Roethlisberger is kidding, of course. What, him worry?
No, wait, he's serious. Here, in front of his locker, he's owning his mortality, a concession to that inevitable thief, time, and the way it robs even elite quarterbacks eventually. Like he owned it in January, when he publicly pondered retirement. Like he owned it in July when he grappled with how chronic traumatic encephalopathy ravages a football player's brain and, in the end, his body.
No, actually, he's glib. He's just frustrated, forced to forensically dissect the myriad ways he failed this Sunday afternoon, his flippancy morphing into self-flagellation. Because 30 seconds later, to the same mob of reporters and the same tightening ring, he rejects any notion of creeping self-doubt whatsoever. "If anybody in this room ever has that doubt, they probably aren't here," he says. "You know what I'm saying?"
And isn't that the rub of this 14-year journey? We don't know. The quarterback who has juked and shimmied and scrambled his way to a Hall of Fame-worthy NFL career is not just hard to catch on the field.
We are never quite sure what it is Ben Roethlisberger is actually, truly saying.
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