I Never Thought I’d Want to Hug Ben Roethlisberger…

Big Ben stated he would miss a game if it conflicted with the birth of his child. Why this is an important, visible step that can help dads in less glamorous professions.

Ben Roethlisberger says he'll miss a game for the birth of his child
Ben Roethlisberger says he’ll miss a game for the birth of his child

After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers star quarterback hasn’t always been the nicest of guys, especially to women.  And, of course I am still quite pissed about the 2010 AFC Championship Game (My wife’s quote after that crushing loss: “If I treated you as badly as the Jets treat you, you would have left me by now”).  (EDIT- I’m not so happy about this week’s game either!!!)

But, a few weeks ago, Big Ben made this statement:

I’m not missing the birth of my child, There’s no chance. I know some fans probably don’t want to hear that, but there’s no chance…. When you’re going to be a father, all you think about is having this little baby… It’s exciting and it is a little bit scary, too. It is. Before long, you’re going to have this little life that you’re taking care of. But I’ve heard nothing but great things from people (about) just how it will change your life. I’m just so excited for that challenge.”

If this comes to pass (pun intended), and Big Ben misses a crucial mid-season game to attend the birth of his child, the attention this would give to the relative importance of work and fatherhood would be enormous.  And, years after his atrocious behavior, Ben would suddenly become a great example for family men everywhere (need I remind anyone here about the dearth of shining examples of fatherhood in the NFL- *ahem* watch this video clip of Antonio Cromartie *ahem*).  Even more important, it may make some more “old-school” managers around the country more sensitive to the issues their male employees face when a child first arrives.

This isn’t the first time work-family issues and sports have intertwined.  From time to time, we hear of baseball players missing 1-3 games upon the birth of a child, but that represents less than 2% of the baseball season.  Some baseball players who miss games are supported by their organizations; others get criticized.  To its credit, MLB has supported new dads by implementing a 24-72 hour paternity leave for players (Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis was the first to avail himself of this policy).

I’m also reminded of NBA player Vince Carter who, back when he was the second coming of Dr. J, missed practices leading up to the seventh and deciding game of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals to attend his college graduation ceremony. He’d left UNC after his junior year, but took part-time classes while in the NBA to finish his degree.  He rushed back to the game in time and scored 20 points, but his team lost to Philly by one.  Reaction was intensely split on whether he had his priorities straight or whether he wasn’t sufficiently dedicated to the team.

Does that sound familiar to any of you who took some parental leave or time off for family reasons at your workplace?

Now, we have another high-profile test case.  Selfishly, for the good of our cause (helping fathers better balance work and family demands and encouraging more supportive workplaces), I really hope Big Ben’s kid is born on a Sunday.  Call me over-optimistic, but I think much of the sports world has evolved and would rally around Ben if he missed a game to experience the greatest moment of a dad’s life.

However, if Pittsburgh winds up narrowly missing the post-season this year, well, all bets are off (pun, again, intended), and there may be damaging blowback to our cause.

But as a Jets fan, that’s a risk I’m willing to take…

What do you think?  We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below.

13 thoughts on “I Never Thought I’d Want to Hug Ben Roethlisberger…

  1. I’m not a Big Ben fan for two reasons, one that I’m a patriots fan so the steelers are a rival of ours, but more importantly, as you alluded to, he’s been involved with some questionable (at best) situations with women and I don’t really respect that at all. I’m glad that he’s taken this stance though.

  2. I like the idea of using well known sports figures as examples in your first blog. This should engender (pun intended) a fairly quick bye-in by your target dad-audience and that in turn will likely foster some level of reader loyalty as you continue to develop the blog.

  3. Really enjoyed the inaugural entry Scott – well done! I firmly believe that the more “high-profile” examples of good paternal parenting, the better. Despite all the changes in our culture, society and (of late) economy, I think that there is still too much emphasis on Dad as the “second parent”, from whom anything beyond the bare minimum in child rearing is viewed as exemplary…and rare. That may be a run-on sentence, but it doesn’t change the fact that GOOD dads who do GREAT things for their children are still viewed as the exception, not the rule. So I’m with you … I’ll be rooting for a Sunday arrival for Baby Ben. And while we’re at it, I’d also like to encourage any and all politicians who are running for office to dutifully return home to witness the birth of their children, where applicable. Will it mean a few less days on the campaign trail? Absolutely. But talk about a win-win situation….

  4. Scott- very nice. Great opening salvo- topical and relevant subject, popular and polarizing figure and extremely well written (props to your Farrell English teachers).

    My two cents on the subject…the jaded side of me read this as a public attempt at recasting a very bad public image. My hopeful side wishes he actually feels that way and realizes just how lucky he is. I remember quickly shaving early in the morning when my wife was having contractions and thinking that there are not too many more special days in an entire life than the one I was about to experience. Will be interesting to see how this plays out for Roethlisberger.

    VB

    • Thanks, VB. You articulated the only reservation I had in writing this piece- the potential PR angle of it. I hope you stick around for future posts. say hi to your family, and especially to Paul!

  5. Ben Roethlisberger does not have my nomination for father of the year. At the same time I admire his commitment to be there for the birth of his child. However, this is only one day in child’s life. I need to see more proof of Ben’s good dad behavior.

    Scott

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