Originally created 06/14/06

Will crash get his head straight?



Ben Roethlisberger was a one-man campaign against motorcycle helmets.

Now, he's the reluctant poster boy for them.

The millionaire quarterback of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers went flying off his cycle in a Pittsburgh intersection Monday when a car turned in front of him. He reportedly suffered a broken jaw and nose and other facial fractures, lost teeth and required seven hours of surgery from four doctors.

In truth, he is lucky to be alive - and to have the prospect of playing football again.

"He's coherent," said a hospital spokesman. "He's making sense."

After the crash, he's making sense. Before it? That's another story.

At 6-5 and 241 pounds, the 24-year-old Ben Roethlisberger is a child prodigy. In his rookie year in 2004, he led his team to an astounding 15-1 regular season record. Last year the Steelers' record slipped to 11-5 - but Roethlisberger became the youngest quarterback ever to lead his team to a Super Bowl win.

At 24, he seemed to have the world on a string. On Monday, the string snapped. And he will now have to do some very quick and very painful growing up.

The other driver may be at fault, certainly, but that's little consolation. You've got to plan on the unexpected on the road.

We hope he now knows that when you've got so much riding on your shoulders, you may not want to ride a motorcycle - but certainly you don't want to do so without a helmet.

Ben Roethlisberger has a rare and precious opportunity: Still a relative baby, he has the chance to remain at the top of his craft for years to come - playing a child's game for many millions of dollars.

Moreover, he has a priceless, God-given opportunity to use his wealth and fame for great good, in whatever causes he chooses to champion. Not only are his teammates and fans depending on him; so are the untold, undiscovered legions who might yet have a better life as a result of the kindness and generosity of a rich, famous athlete.

What a tragic shame - for both him and those whom he could carry on his shoulders - that he put it all at risk.