From poverty, to penthouse, to outhouse

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Come and listen to my story ’bout a man named Jed, poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed, then one day he was shootin’ at some food and up through the ground came a bubbling crude oil, that is, Texas tea, black gold. First thing you know, old Jed’s a millionaire, friends said, Jed, move away from here. Said that California was the place he ought to be. So he loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly, Hills, that is, swimming pools and movie stars. (Lyrics the theme from ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’)

There are many words that have been written about the “bad conduct” of Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Even though the conduct of Roethlisberger should not be recommended to any young athlete or non-athlete, his alleged misdeeds were not life-threatening to Big Ben or those who were allegedly victimized by him.

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The story of Ben Roethlisberger reminds me of the story of Jed Clampett, patriarch of the mythical “Beverly Hillbillies.” Big Ben came from modest surroundings, got paid but unlike Jed who remained humble, Big Ben “just got plum stupid” as Granny from might say. Unlike Jed Clampett, Big Ben did not move to Beverly Hills, he moved to Milledge, Ga. See, there is a method to the madness of Ben. See if he had moved to “Cali” he would not even have caused a ripple with his paltry $100 million plus salary. Tori Spelling has a house for sale priced at a mere $150 million. Big Ben does not even make enough to buy her crib, at least not outright. See in Milledge, Roethlisberger is the “Big Man on Campus.” In Beverly Hills, he doesn’t even make it to campus. In my opinion Big Ben has to be the center of attention wherever he goes. It is called narcissism.

Chris Henry, the late, talented and often troubled wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals is another example. Henry’s situation exemplifies how we have allowed all the moral rules and standards we have established to be diluted, polluted and convoluted when it comes to money. They have it all backwards now. Chris Henry was engaged to a woman he had already fathered three children by. I was always taught that the sequence of romance was date, get engaged, get married, have children, grandchildren and transition to eternity.

We have permitted our values to be changed and in many cases even discarded because these reconfigured principles are accepted by and comfortable for the pants-on- the-ground, blunt smoking, video game playing generation. If we demanded more from them they would have to do more, period.

When Henry played at West Virginia, he was successful, but seemed to have issues there as well. In a game against the Rutgers, he was suspended for unsportsmanlike conduct. He was also barred from the final game of the season against Pitt. His coach stated that he was “an embarrassment to himself and the program.”

There are instances that when impoverished young men in athletics are rewarded with instant wealth and fame, the outcome may be less than desirable. Young women are also taught that you don’t need a deck of cards to play “go fish.” You just need a short skirt, a manufactured smile and some great Victoria’s Secret undergarments and you may be able to break the bank because love may come and go but “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

NFL QB Mike Vick was arrested, charged, convicted and jailed because he was “found guilty” of being involved in the illegal practice of dog fighting. After he had served his sentence, the pseudo-animal rights group PETA demanded that Vick be forced to undergo counseling before being reinstated to compete in the NFL. He was forced to be the poster boy of an anti-dog fighting and animal cruelty campaign. A 2007 USA.com article titled: ‘PETA workers cleared of animal Cruelty’ reported that a jury in Winton, N.C., cleared two animal rights workers of animal cruelty charges for euthanizing cats and dogs they took from shelters, but both were convicted of littering for dumping the carcasses in a trash bin. “The important thing is the jury recognized they were never guilty of cruelty,” PETA spokes­woman Kathy Guillermo said.

Why weren’t those PETA workers forced to do PSAs about saying no to animal cruelty? At least Vick and his cronies buried the poor animals. The PETA personnel testified that they “euthanized the animals in the back of their van to relieve their suffering. “[We] disposed of the bodies in a gar­bage bin rather than drive them back to PETA offices in Virginia, because the stench from the carcasses was overwhelming.”

Well, the stench from the double standards is mind-boggling. How can a man almost lose his career and livelihood, while others who commit the same offense but whose methods differ be adjudicated by a suspect set of laws? Are crimes against women less offensive than transgressions against animals? You be the judge, boys and girls.

My final point is that standards cannot or should not be altered or changed because of one’s social, economic or political status. And as my boy Tony Beretta would say, “That’s the name of that tune.”

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at 412-583-6741.)

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