The title is from a Jerry Seinfeld routine in which he notes that with frequent player moves and franchise moves, sports fans are essentially cheering on the set of clothes a player is wearing at this particular moment. I am painfully aware, with several Patriots acting like jerks at the end of the Jets game, plus the increasing evidence that Kevin Garnett has moved from "presence" to "enforcer" to "dirty player," that factors other than clear moral choices drive our fandom. Loyalty, even toward an unworthy object, has something admirable about it, yet remains a limited virtue.
There has been a hue and cry of Shall We Disdain Ben Roethlisberger? during the past two weeks. There is something false about this. There was plenty of disdain for him when the sexual assault incident first came to light, and then in the week he returned to playing quarterback. Entirely justified, to my mind. But then it died down and nobody mentioned it. So why now? Because it's the Super Bowl, of course, and our sense of justice is re-offended that someone who has been a criminal should ascend to the highest honor in his sport. But that's entirely symbolic, an embedding in the mythos of sport rather than the reality of lives lived. He didn't become more guilty in the last week. Or less guilty, for that matter. One more bit of evidence that we don't actually care about the real woman and her trauma, but only about the undermining of our own myths.
Colin Cowherd reminds us that we wouldn't like a whole lot of the people we root for. Roethlisberger isn't unique, or even unusual.