Thursday, June 15, 2006

Roethlisberger's Air Of Invincibility Common Among His Ilk

Superman -- another movie version -- opens June 30 (at theatres everywhere). The Man of Steel is fiction -- a comic book hero whose exploits have been transferred to the boob tube and silver screen throughout the past 50 years or so. He is, for all intents and purposes, indestructible -- both from pop culture, and from our consciousness.

Ben Roethlisberger -- and this should come as no shock -- isn't Superman. Maybe somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he thinks he is. Winning the Super Bowl (notice the first word of the game's name?) in his second pro season, and the adulation that comes with that, and his young age, might encourage the Superman mentality.

But Roethlisberger, who until today lied in a Pittsburgh hospital recovering from injuries sustained in a horrific motorcycle accident Monday, is no more immortal than the next person. Some would say his behavior -- riding the bike without a helmet -- made him, at the moment of the crash, more mortal than the next, helmeted person.

Pro athletes -- especially the younger ones -- and their college counterparts often carry themselves with the invincible air that should only be reserved for comic book characters. But they, along with movie stars and recording artists, live hard and play hard. Fast. Reckless. Invincible.

There's no telling how much worse, or fatal, Roethlisberger's accident could have been had he landed a different way after being thrown from his bike. The lack of a helmet contributes greatly to this ghoulish hypothetical vision.

James Dean, Hollywood rabble rouser, had the invincibility air. He drove his sports car at fiendishly high speeds. One day, he drove it too fast for the last time.

A pitcher from the Milwaukee Brewers named Danny Frisella celebrated New Year's, 1977 by riding a dune buggy with reckless abandon. His celebration ended with a fatal crash. He wasn't yet 31 years old.

Ben Roethlisberger leaves the hospital today, and already folks are wondering how this will affect his play on the field. But thanks to his play off the field, the bigger question should be: How will this affect his life?

When you get a reprieve despite your reckless ways, it's best not to go to that well too many times.

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