Let's say that Big Ben and the Steelers win the Super Bowl. Let's say they win it by a lot. Leave no doubt as to who the better team is. Will Ben get the same respect as Tom? As Terry? Or will his off the field issues still cloud his on the field successes?
I have been keeping up with the online rhetoric from fans, bloggers, forum posters and it is still about 5 to 1 people who are holding Ben's off the field issues higher than his on the field accomplishments. The words rapist come out all the time. There are many people who are convinced that he was guilty on every occasion and many of these are not just Ben haters or Steelers haters, they are just football fans. I am not convinced he is innocent either, but no one has been able to prove anything. And even though he is not my favorite on a personal basis, he like every American, is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. In this America though, of the 24 hour news cycle and Twitter, guilt is all in the perception. And the perception of Big Ben is that he is just another overpaid athlete who got away with crimes because of it.
On the field however, he is doing all the right things. Well, he was until the last half of the AFC Championship game when he played worse than the Bears backups and let the Jets put up 19 unanswered points. Until then though, he has played very well this season. He has come back from injury, broken noses, and fighting through the division to come out on top. He will now take one of the most storied franchises in football history into the Super Bowl yet again. He will have a chance to join the elite ranks of NFL QBs with multiple Super Bowl rings. If he leads his team to a big victory he will be mentioned in the same breath as Brady and approaching Bradshaw. But will he be respected? Will he get the same fan adulation and media coverage as his counterparts? I don't think so.
In the NFL, just like life eventually there is a price to pay for choices made and Ben's choices may very well cost him the outpouring of fan support and media coverage for his successes because of his failures.