The news about Ben Roethlisberger is both sad and disappointing, but surprising it is not. Narcissism in our celebrity culture and the God-complex it creates is all-pervasive. Stories like Roethlisberger’s are naturally becoming more commonplace. The news may come as a surprise, however, to the countless number of Miami University administrators and marketers who have been placing Ben on the highest possible pedestal since he first stepped on campus.
Miami has featured “Big Ben” on more university pamphlets and posters than Benjamin Harrison, William Holmes McGuffey and Rita Dove combined. The fever pitch surrounding Ben reached its pinnacle when he won a Super Bowl championship, the highest “honor” bestowed upon an individual in modern American society.
In my own graduation ceremony at Miami, I recall his name being cited by nearly every speaker. According to them, he was an example of an alumnus who achieved the type of greatness towards which we all need to strive. We love our pedestals here in the U.S., and universities are not innocent of creating them. And exhibiting them for public display. Winners up! Losers down! To be sure, all of us are guilty of occasional hero worship, but unfortunate occurrences like these have a way of humbling us back to reality.
Ben is responsible for his own actions, and so are we. Perhaps this tragic episode will make us reflect on our own values and redirect our recognition to those who actually deserve it. I have in mind someone like a struggling walk-on player who plays out of sacrifice, enjoyment and dedication — and actually embodies Miami’s motto: Prodesse Quam Conspici.