silver lining in the big ben controversy.

“I am not a role model,” Charles Barkley once exclaimed. He was right, no doubt. And recent scandals involving Ben Roethlisberger make the rest of us respond, “no kidding!”

But Sir Charles, for all his likability and on-camera loquaciousness, never got in any serious trouble for his bar fights and other reported misdeeds. He never got suspended by David Stern. Big Ben is not so fortunate. Along with a 4-6 game suspension, he’s lost a sponsor and even the Pittsburgh Zoo removed his display.

For me, there is a silver lining in all this: corporations and pro sports leagues are FINALLY laying down the law on athletes behaving badly. They’re finally catching up to the frustrated fans who are tired of coddled stars who skate to different rules than the people who occupy the seats in their arenas and stadiums. It’s about time.

Some disagree with this hard line, insisting it matters not to them what an athlete does in his/her personal time so long as they do the job on the court. Point taken, but folks who make this argument are missing the point. It’s not an unfair expectation from fans and communities that the stars for whom they cheer don’t embarrass us in public (can you hear me, Jamaal Tinsley?).

True, most of us don’t have jobs in the middle of 20,000-seat arenas. We don’t have to field questions from a phalanx of reporters while we’re trying to put on street clothes at our lockers. We don’t have bloggers writing about us and our exploits 24/7.

But that’s why they get paid the big bucks. It takes a special person who can do their jobs in that crucible and not lose self control.

This isn’t about snarky tweets because a middle linebacker was terse with a fan at the local supermarket. This is about fans growing tired of stars consistently getting in situations that embarrass the organization, the fans and the city.

Nobody’s asking for them to be saints. They’re asking them to be adults. And it looks like the league commissioners and corporate CEOs are finally coming around to it.

It’s about time.

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