Public shame not enough for Roethlisberger

April 14, 2010

Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel suggests that Ben Roethlisberger will be sufficiently punished for being an idiot by being "publicly shamed." That might be true if he were indeed to be publicly shamed, but this country does not "do" shame. At worst, Mr. Roethlisberger will be embarrassed, perhaps deeply embarrassed, but not shamed. Shame is the opposite of honor, and if Ben had any honor he would not have been in this situation in the first place. Since he clearly has no honor, he also has no shame.

The people of America would be better off if we all truly understood and felt shame when we did something wrong. Celebrities would be unable to profit handsomely from their misdeeds by getting a ghost writer to put everything in a book and broadcast it all to the world. Two-bit impeached governors would not be around to be "fired" by Donald Trump. CEOs would give the billions back, or they wouldn't take them in the first place. And if Tiger Woods had been truly shamed rather than horribly embarrassed, and if he had nevertheless been able to get past his shame to play at Augusta, he would have been greeted at the first tee not by cheers or boos, but by silence.

Athletes are not punished by "public shame" because there is no such thing in a country that loves second chances. If the Pittsburgh Steelers decide that Mr. Roethlisberger needs to be punished for putting the team in a bad light, they can only accomplish that by hitting him in the pocketbook until it hurts. That's the American way.

Janis L. Koch

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