Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/29/2006 01:47:00 PM
My Sportsman: Ben Roethlisberger
In February, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger became the youngest quarterback to lead a team to a Super Bowl title.
By Pete McEntegart
Sports are never so resonant as when they provide us with object lessons for life. There is, of course, the "hero," the gritty warrior from a humble background who inspires us all by winning the Big Game. Athletics can also deliver cautionary tales of would-be heroes who through their missteps remind us that not even the most strapping among us can escape mortality.
Yet rarely can one person teach both of these lessons in a single calendar year. That's why Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is my choice as SI's Sportsman of the Year.
Big Ben began 2006 as the NFL's new Cool Hand Luke. In just his second season out of little Miami of Ohio, the 6-foot-5, 241-pound Roethlisberger made all the big plays as the Steelers won three straight road playoff games to become the first No. 6 seed to reach the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger completed 68 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and one interception in the three games, punctuated by his game-saving tackle of Colts cornerback Nick Harper in the AFC divisional game.
Big Ben wasn't at his best statistically in the Super Bowl, but he did enough to become, at 23, the youngest winning quarterback ever -- surpassing even the King of Cool, Tom Brady. Roethlisberger was so hip that he shaved off his playoff beard on Letterman.
Then in June came Roethlisberger's infamous motorcycle crash, when the helmet-less (ah, the recklessness of youth!) quarterback was fortunate to escape with a broken jaw, multiple facial fractures and a concussion. What better reminder that even the strongest among us is not indestructible?
Next, just when Roethlisberger appeared ready to make a miraculous recovery in time for Pittsburgh's season opener, he was laid up with an appendectomy. Oh, the humanity!
Big Ben hustled back into the lineup just 11 days after the surgery, only to throw seven interceptions and no touchdown passes as the defending champs lost three straight. Did he rush back too soon? Was he trying so hard to help the team that he was actually hurting it?
Since then, Roethlisberger has alternated stretches of brilliance with relative ineptitude as the Steelers have fallen out of the playoff race. In so doing, he's also all but written his storyline for 2007: "Big Ben looks to put wasted year behind him."
It's for thus being all things to all people -- especially to originality-starved sportswriters such as this one -- that Roethlisberger has more than earned Sportsman honors.
Not only is Ben Roethlisberger the worst pick out of all of them for Sportsman of the Year, you could have at least gotten the name of his school right. As RedHawks, we take great offense to being called "Miami of Ohio." In the future, please use the correct name, Miami University. I'd also like to add that many current students are embarassed of his off-field behavior as it has severely damaged our reputation. We used to be known as the "Ivy League School of the Midwest," now we have simply become the alma mater of that idiot quarterback.
i agree that it would only be fitting that ward and roethlisberger share the honor. These guys embody the blue collar attitude of the steel city. They don't have the glitz and glamour of L.A or new York, but they brought the title to Pittsburgh by relentssly plugging away and pounding opponents into submission. Their gutsy comeback from the abyss after their 7-5 start symbolizes the work ethic of western pennsylvania.