Big Ben Bonanza

3/12.10 11:30 A.M.
Wow. I never expected this kind of a response on the first day. I had hoped to get 10 or 12 visitors. You can see by the comments that I got bombarded with responses to my two posts. I have to thank Bob Smizik of the Post-Gazette for giving the site a plug yesterday. I still think Bob’s the most readable columnist in town, even though he’s not in the paper. You should check his blog every day:
http://community.post-gazette.com/blogs/bobsmizik/default.aspx

I think what caught everyone’s attention and caused my post to get quite a bit of play around the country was the reference to Roethlisberger blowing off a Make-A-Wish kid.
I can’t tell you the exact date and I’m not even sure about the year. It was about three years ago. I got an email from a woman who told me that KDKA should stop treating Roethlisberger like a hero and start reporting the truth about him. She told me that worked at a local hotel and met the family of a young girl who had come to town to be granted her wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They had come back from the Steelers facility on the South Side and the little girl was crying because Ben Roethlisberger had not shown up as promised. The girl got to meet several Steelers after practice and the family appreciated that but the girl was still upset about being stood up by Ben. I explained to the woman that I couldn’t go on the air with story like that based on her email. Eventually we spoke on the phone and she went into more detail about what a terrible experience it was for this little girl with cystic fibrosis. The email that she sent me was seen by several members of the Pittsburgh sports media. When the email was shown to KDKA-TV’s news director, he made it clear that he wasn’t interested in touching the story with a 10 foot pole. I told the woman who had contacted me that I needed to hear it from the parents themselves and I said that, if what she said was true, it really needed to be made public. Not long after that, I received an email from a woman claiming to be the girl’s mother. She backed up everything that the woman from the hotel had said but she said she didn’t want to go public with it in deference to her daughter. That’s as far as the story went. Most of the local sports media are aware of the story. I couldn’t make the story public when I was at KDKA because we would have needed the parents to go on camera and because station management wasn’t interested in pursuing it. I also didn’t feel comfortable telling the story in my newspaper columns because of the parents’ reluctance to go public. I didn’t have a blog until yesterday and blogs are different. I feel like I can post a story on a blog with the idea that the reader can take it for what it’s worth. My post was just one more story in an avalanche of stories about what a jackass Ben Roethlisberger is. Maybe the woman who worked in the hotel made the story up and then found someone in Ohio to go along with the scam by sending me an email. I guess that’s a possibility. Based on what I’ve seen from Roethlisberger the last few years, I believe the story to be true. I didn’t post the story because I expected to create a media firestorm and generate lots of traffic to this site. In light of everything that was coming out about Roethlisberger, I just felt the time and place were right to finally tell the story,

  • oksteelerfan

    John,
    TMZ has new pictures. They planned out their party it was called “Palooza” with the shirts made up and all.
    Maybe I’m getting old, but stupid stuff like this is something I would expect out of frat boys not grown men.
    But then maybe that’s why their party ended on a sexual assault accusation. Frat boys partying usually don’t think about the consequences.

    I’m sorry this makes all of them look immature. I hope none of these guys are his bodyguards he takes everywhere he goes.

  • BobLib

    John you stated in a reply above that you have never agreed to appear somewhere and just blown it off. Im assuming you are refering to your Make-a-Wish allegations against Mr Roethlisberger.

    Out of curiousity, did you seek out either Mr. Roethlisberger or a represenative of his or the Steelers to get his side of the story? And if so, what was the reason he/they gave?

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I had no reason to pursue it further because KDKA put the stop to it. And I wasn’t referring to that when I referred to things he has blown off.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I had no reason to pursue it further because KDKA put the stop to it. And I wasn’t referring to that when I referred to things he has blown off.

      • BobLib

        So let me get this straight.

        You recieved a tip about Ben Roethlisberger blowing off a Make-a-Wish girl. You talked with her parents via email about the incident. But you did not talk with Ben Roethlisberger or the Steelers about it.

        In other words, you only had half of the story.

        But it didnt stop you from not only presenting it as fact, but also using it as your main examples of Ben Roethlisberger being a jackass.

        C’mon John thats questionable at best.

        Im not defending Roethlisberger by any means. Given the facts, the guy (kid) is obviously immature and not too bright. A 28 year old bar hopping in a college town is asking for trouble. Anyone can see this. And the stories about him being dislikable are numerous. Even I have a few I could share. But lets be fair here and not pile on with half-truths.

        If KDKA had given you the green-light with the story, would they have let you take it to the air without you speaking to Ben Roethlisberger or the Steelers?

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          Here’s what I presented as a fact: A woman emailed me and said that Ben had blown off a Make-A-Wish kid. I was put in contact with a woman who claimed to be the little girl’s mother. She said it was true. The emails were seen by most of the media who cover the Steelers on a regular basis. When a reporter went to KDKA’s news director with the email and suggested we follow up on it, he was told to forget it. I had no reason to pursue the story because it wasn’t going to get on the air and it was made pretty clear to everybody that the boss didn’t want the story pursued. Now, it’s 3 or four years later and I’m writing a blog and I point out that I’ve heard 10 times more negative stories about Roethlisberger than I’ve heard about any player in my more than 30 years of covering Pittsburgh sports. That also is a fact. I presented the Make-A-Wish story as an example of the many negative stories I had heard about the guy. I didn’t say it was true. I told you what someone else told me. It’s up to you whether you want to believe the woman. There is a mountain of other stories I’ve heard about him and I didn’t check those out, either. This was just an example of one of the worst stories I had heard.

          • BobLib

            The problem John is that your story, without a fair chance at an explaination by Roethlisberger or the Steelers, is just opinion. Nothing more. Its no more valid than Joe Ordinary Citizen starting a blog and writing the same things. Ive got a few stories myself of people who have met Mr Roethlisberger and been less than thrilled. What if I’d put the in a blog?

            However the big difference between you and Joe Ordinary Citizen is the name. You have spent 30 plus years building up a solid reputation as a good, legitimate Pittsburgh sports journalist. The name, John Steigerwald penned to an article carries infinately more clout and credibility than that of Joe Ordinary Citizen. J.O.C writing such opinions are dismissed as just that…opinions. But when John Steigerwald signs his name to it, it is disseminated around the country as truth…eventhough it is no more valid that what Joe Ordinary Citizens writes.

            I also find it interesting that of all of the stories that you could go with as an example, you choose the one about Make-a-Wish. Why? Without being criminal, there are fewer acts that are more egregious than snubbing a terminally ill child. And the Make-a-Wish story suits you agenda without being slanderous on your part. Im not going to speculate on your agenda and make wild accusations, but it sure is questionable.

            Finally John, I understand that its a blog and its your opinion untethered from the restraits on mainstream media. I also understand that its up to me to decide if I want to believe it or not. But Im disappointed that someone that I consider a good, legitimate sports journalist would dive into the world of blogging and leave behind good journalistic practices, and print something so biased and one sided.

            Its great to hear your opinion outside of TV and newspaper. But in my opinion, its your responsibility to present it with as much integrity as possible.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            I told you I had heard an amazing number of bad stories about the guy and I gave you the worst one. I told you where it came from. You’re offended. I understand where you’re coming from. I have no regrets.

  • NuttingHostage

    Whoa John.

    I am enjoying your blog and encourage to not let MM get to you.

    But, dude, as it relates to this particular post, please always remember that paragraphs are our friends. – This one hurt my eyes.
    MY EYES! John, MY EYES!

    Just kidding, keep up the good work. Bob Smizik runs the best sports blog in town in my personal opinion and look forward to you giving him a run for his money.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      MM and I get along fine. I haven’t heard what he’s been saying. I’d be happy to go on the radio with him. I agree with you about Smizik’s blog and I’m working on the paragraphs.
      Thanks

  • Rich

    John,

    Winning football doesn’t mean that much to me. I agree with you. If he’s guilty, get rid of him. If not, send him across town to learn a bit about humility from Sidney Crosby.

    Looking forward to reading your book.

    Rich
    Omaha

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      Bingo. Mr Roberts?

  • Mike

    I’m not sure why you have a smear campaign-type vendetta against Big Ben. Just wondering if he snubbed you for an interview and you are exacting your revenge in the blogosphere.

    I am 100 percent sure that you have blown off an appearance, committment or appointment throughout your professional career. The fact that you use the word “jackass” multiple times to describe the subject of your scrutiny, even in an informal setting like a blog, lets me know that I should use the word professional very loosely.

    My point is this: you have no clue why Ben could not make this committment. If it was a salon appointment, I could understand…but it could also have been a family emergency. Would you ignore a family member admitted to the hospital so you could attend a speaking engagement?

    I’m glad that your immense ego was stroked to get national attention. Just like most current (and in your case past) television reporting, the facts aren’t as important of who reports first or has the most controversial story. Whatever happened to research and confirming your source? With KDKA, you were prepared to hit the air with an unsubstantiated story on the basis of an email. Are you serious?

    This isn’t about making waves using a major Pittsburgh sports figure as your springboard. This is former television sports on-air personality now relegated to reporting with a sub-standard newspaper published 30 miles away from Pittsburgh trying to make a name for himself…while simultaneously promoting a lame book.

    Why don’t you stay in little Washington and stick to just reporting on the PONY League World Series. Then again, you would probably fabricate some lame story about one of the teams juiced on steroids.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      Ben never snubbed me. I never gave him the opportunity because I never asked him for anything. As I’ve said here before, my opinion of him is based on the ridiculous number or people who have come to me –unsolicited–and asked me why he’s such a JACKASS They usually used another word with ass in it. In my 30 years in TV I was never forced to retract a story. I have never in my life agreed to “appear” somewhere and just blown it off. Never. And this guy makes a habit of it. This had nothing to do with a smear campaign. I have a blog and on my first day or writing it, Ben was the number one topic and I commented on it. I’m stunned by the amount of response. I would have been thrilled to get 10 or 12 posts. The Washington-Observer Reporter is a good newspaper. So are the Post Gazette and the Trib who only stopped carrying my column for budgetary reasons. Where can I find your column? I don’t have to make a name for myself. I did that a long, long time ago.

      • Mike

        Sure, I understand the people in the court of public opinion would be willing to offer their stories. The reason why I couldn’t or wouldn’t comment on their distorted observation was…I wasn’t there myself. Neither were you. A fan who was turned away from an autograph or not noticed by their favorite sports star would obviously be upset in some way.

        I found it interesting that you didn’t offer a response to the notion that Ben most likely had a good reason for not granting a Make-A-Wish request…and that you had no factual evidence of why. Maybe he was high and forgot.

        Believe me, I am not defending Ben nor siding with him. I am a fan of his play on the football field. I enjoy watching the games and attending Heinz Field on an occasional Sunday. Even though he is a public figure, should he really be accountable to publicly disclose reasons for every scheduled appointment on his calendar?

      • BobLib

        John you stated above that you have never agreed to appear somewhere and just blown it off. Im assuming you are refering to your Make-a-Wish allegations against Mr Roethlisberger.

        Out of curiousity, did you seek out either Mr. Roethlisberger or a represenative of his or the Steelers to get his side of the story? And if so, what was the reason he/they gave?

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          Here’s another person saying that I accused Ben of blowing off a Make-A-Wish kid. I related a story about a woman who claimed that he did. I laid out exactly what happened. It was in the context of explaining that I am stunned by the number of bad stories I’ve heard about the guy. I’ve also posted readers’ examples of their encounters with him. I didn’t check on their validity. Does that mean I accused Ben of doing the things that the reasders said he did? They’re out there for you to read and you can take them for what they’re worth. You’re perfectly within your rights to believe that the woman who told me about Make-A-Wish made the whole thing up.

  • Patrick

    You’re national now with this blog. The Waddle & Silvy show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago quoted your Big Ben post today. Pretty good recognition for your first week on the blog.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      Amazing. Thanks.