Monthly Archives: January 2011

Education, School Choice and Local News

Years ago, back in the era of dead-tree newspapers and magazines, Akron generated some national news — mostly economic. Every four years the tire and rubber manufacturers — Goodyear, Firestone, General Tire, and my employer, Goodrich — sat down with the United Rubber Workers to hammer out an agreement that had national implications, often setting the pattern for contracts that touched the lives of thousands of American workers in the auto, steel and other industries that used to matter.

Those days are long gone now — along with most of the jobs and the national media coverage you would see in The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, Business Week, The New York Times and locally in the Akron Beacon Journal, which at one time, while hard to believe today, really was an excellent local if not regional newspaper.

Anyway, I was thinking about all of this again over the weekend because of a story –two stories really, one essentially local and one national. The stories involve Akron — and more specifically, the small community I live in just west of the city, Copley — that is sparking considerable national interest on some big-ticket items, education, school choice and racism among them.

And I’ll take the easy route here and let an article in WaPo this morning by Kevin Huffman provide the back-story, “A Rosa Parks moment for education“:

Last week, 40-year-old Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar was released after serving nine days in jail on a felony conviction for tampering with records. Williams-Bolar’s offense? Lying about her address so her two daughters, zoned to the lousy Akron city schools, could attend better schools in the neighboring Copley-Fairlawn district.

Williams-Bolar has become a cause célèbre in a case that crosses traditional ideological bounds. African American activists are outraged, asking: Would a white mother face the same punishment for trying to get her kids a better education? (Answer: No.)

Meanwhile, conservatives view the case as evidence of the need for broader school choice. What does it say when parents’ options are so limited that they commit felonies to avoid terrible schools? Commentator Kyle Olson and others across the political spectrum have called this “a Rosa Parks moment for education.”

For me, the case struck an additional nerve. As a young teacher nearly two decades ago, I taught bilingual first grade in Houston. Some of my students were in this country illegally; by my third year, a number of them also lived outside the school and district zone. Given their substandard neighborhood options, some parents drove 30 minutes or more each way just so their kids could be in my class. I was supportive of, and flattered by, their efforts. These were good parents, doing the best they could for their families.

In this country, if you are middle or upper class, you have school choice. You can, and probably do, choose your home based on the quality of local schools. Or you can opt out of the system by scraping together the funds for a parochial school.

But if you are poor, you’re out of luck, subject to the generally anti-choice bureaucracy. Hoping to win the lottery into an open enrollment “choice” school in your district? Good luck. How about a high-performing charter school? Sure – if your state doesn’t limit their numbers and funding like most states do. And vouchers? Hiss! You just touched a political third rail.

Williams-Bolar lived in subsidized housing and was trapped in a failed system. In a Kafkaesque twist, she was taking college-level courses to become a teacher herself – a dream she now will never realize as a convicted felon. It’s America’s version of the hungry man stealing bread to feed his family, only to have his hand cut off as punishment.

Wow. Any city would kill for this kind of national publicity. You listening Akron Chamber of Commerce? I digress.

I moved to Copley 20 some years ago from another small community south of Akron. And for a reason that I still don’t completely understand, my son and daughter went to the Revere schools, not Copley. No matter. Both were and are excellent public school systems. And I moved to the community for several reasons, but the quality of the schools was certainly high, if not topping the list.

Full disclosure: My wife taught in the Akron Public Schools system for 30 years, but given the choice — which we had economically — there was no way we were going to send our children to school there, save maybe Firestone High School on Akron’s west side, close to Copley. Go figure.

And we’ve had a front row seat to witness the decline of the Akron Public School system, once a model for an urban school district, but today certainly no better and in many ways worse than most around the country. Wonder if the deterioration of the Akron schools has any connection to the loss of quality, well-paying middle-class manufacturing jobs? I digress again.

The local story about Kelley Williams-Bolar starts with the fact that she committed and was convicted of a crime, a felony. That fact — and others involving charges of racism and so on — have been well-reported (see Akron Law Cafe, “Separate Schools: The Copley Township Case“) by the Akron Beacon Journal and other local news outlets. And for what it’s worth. Kelley Williams-Bolar doesn’t strike me as a totally sympathetic character in all of this. And she isn’t Rosa Parks, unless Rosa Parks sneaked onto the bus.

But this, by the nature of the issues involved, is not just a local story. And unfortunately, I don’t see as much commentary or discussion locally as I do nationally about the big elephant in the room here: the pathetic state of education in this country and what we need to do to fix it.

As an example of the national coverage, here’s from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank Inside the Beltway:

This Wednesday morning at 10 am, after serving nine days of a 10-day sentence, Kelley Williams-Bolar was released from the Summit County Jail in Akron, Ohio. Her crime? Trying to provide her two daughters with a better education. How on earth did trying to provide your children with a better education become a crime in the United States? Because the political party that currently occupies the White House is completely dependent on the power of education unions, and these unions see all efforts to shift power away from them, and to parents like Williams-Bolar, as a threat to their very existence. The case of Williams-Bolar is a perfect opportunity for the left to stop and reconsider their war on school choice.

Before January 15, Williams-Bolar had no criminal record. She lived in an Akron housing project with her two daughters, worked as a teaching assistant at Buchtel High School, and was going to college to further her own education career. Like any parent, Williams-Bolar wanted to give her children the best education possible. But the grade 6 reading and math scores of students in the Akron City School District are almost 30 points lower than those in neighboring Copley-Fairlawn City School District. While Ohio does allow school choice intradistrict, Copley-Fairlawn does not offer open enrollment to children who live in the Akron City School District. Ohio also offers private-school-tuition scholarships to students in Cleveland, but that program is not available to children in Akron.

So starting in August 2006, Williams-Bolar signed forms claiming her two daughters lived at their father’s address in the Copley-Fairlawn School District. Two years later the Copley-Fairlawn School District hired a private investigator who shot video of Williams-Bolar driving her children from their home in the Akron City School District to a school in their district. “It does not matter if, when she started the lie in 2006, she didn’t know she was going to get caught,” Summit County prosecutor Michael Cody yelled in his closing argument.

While Williams-Bolar went to jail for practicing school choice, leaders of the Democratic Party practice it themselves every day. Growing up in Chicago, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attended a private school. Later as Chicago Public Schools chief, Duncan maintained a list of requests from the politically connected for their children to attend the schools of their choice. In the 111th Congress, 44 percent of Senators and 36 percent of Representatives had at one time sent their children to private school.

Growing up in Hawaii, President Obama attended a private school. Growing up first in Chicago and now in Washington, Obama’s two daughters attended and still attend private schools. Questioned how he could possibly justify this in September, President Obama responded: “I’ll be very honest with you. Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is: For a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections, don’t have a choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education as anybody else, and they don’t have that yet.”

OK. This is an important story involving my community — but it touches on a critical national issue: how do we improve the quality of education in every community so that all of our young people have an opportunity to succeed in school and in life — and that the USA has a shot at remaining competitive with other nations in what really is today a global economy.

That’s the story that both the Akron Beacon Journal and other local news media and the national media should be focusing on.

Just sayin’.

Sarah Palin and Obama’s WTF Moment

Wonder if anything else is going on in the world these days other than Sarah Palin opining on Obama’s State of the Union address and people fretting about snow storms in the power alleys of Wall Street and DC?

Oh, yeah. There appears to be big trouble brewing in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world as people — apparently young people in particular — are taking to the streets and challenging the rulers of their autocratic nations. And the situation must be serious and violent, since reports have it that Egypt has “gone dark,” eliminating Internet access so little information is getting in or out of the country.

OK, enough of that. Back to Sarah.

She views Obama’s “Winning the Future” theme as, well — WTF. (For those of you my age or older, go ahead and admit you don’t know what that means and check it out in the Urban Dictionary.”)

Here’s from a blog post by David Jackson on USA Today:

President Obama’s new slogan is “Winning the Future.”

To Sarah Palin, it’s “WTF.”

Palin used the acronym at least three times last night in discussing Obama’s State of the Union speech on Fox News. WTF is also a phone text-driven phrase used to avoid spelling out the f word; it stands for “what the (blank).”

“There were a lot of WTF moments through that speech,” the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren.

Palin used the phrase in reference to Obama’s discussion of the federal debt, and his claim that the U.S. faces a “Sputnik moment” when it comes to technology and innovation challenges from other countries.

Whether you like Sarah Palin or not, you have to admit that for someone who many criticize as not being serious enough or smart enough to be president, she seriously knows how to manipulate the news media, new and old. And she has been smart enough to position herself as the primary voice for conservatives and the front runner in the race for the White House in 2012 — even though nobody really knows at this point if she is running or not. Go figure.

Anyway, for a more thoughtful analysis beyond WTF of Obama’s remarks, here’s Charles Krauthammer, opining in WaPo, “The old Obama in new clothing“:

The November election sent a clear message to Washington: less government, less debt, less spending. President Obama certainly heard it, but judging from his State of the Union address, he doesn’t believe a word of it. The people say they want cuts? Sure they do – in the abstract. But any party that actually dares carry them out will be punished severely. On that, Obama stakes his reelection.

And:

It’s as if Obama is daring the voters – and the Republicans – to prove they really want smaller government. He’s manning the barricades for Obamacare, and he’s here with yet another spending – excuse me, investment – spree. To face down those overachieving Asians, Obama wants to sink yet more monies into yet more road and bridge repair, more federally subsidized teachers – with a bit of high-speed rail tossed in for style. That will show the Chinese.

And of course, once again, there is the magic lure of a green economy created by the brilliance of Washington experts and politicians. This is to be our “Sputnik moment,” when the fear of the foreigner spurs us to innovation and greatness of the kind that yielded NASA and the moon landing.

Apart from the irony of this appeal being made by the very president who has just killed NASA’s manned space program, there is the fact that for three decades, since Jimmy Carter’s synfuel fantasy, Washington has poured billions of taxpayer dollars down a rat hole in vain pursuit of economically competitive renewable energy.

And the concluding point:

Indeed, he went beyond this. He tried to cast this more-of-the-same into a call to national greatness, citing two Michigan brothers who produce solar shingles as a stirring example of rising to the Sputnik moment.

“We do big things,” Obama declared at the end of an address that was, on the contrary, the finest example of small-ball Clintonian minimalism since the days of school uniforms and midnight basketball.

From the moon landing to solar shingles. Is there a better example of American decline?

Oh well. WTF.

Snow Storms and Shit Storms

Well, I made it back from a few days Inside the Beltway. But just barely. I managed to be on the last flight yesterday afternoon that left Reagan National for Cleveland — and that happened as a snow storm started to make its way through the DC area.

The good citizens of the nation’s capital were on high alert and in full panic mode. Even before the first snowflake managed to touch terra firma, the federal government announced it was calling it a day some two hours early, triggering just about every other business to close early as well.Woot.

If the Founding Fathers had established the capital in, let’s say Cleveland, it would today be a Tea Party wet dream. The federal government would be closed for about three months a year. Oops. I digress.

Anyway, the forecast of snow sure got people moving in a hurry. Wonder if we’ll see the same kind of action in coming weeks and months on the main points that Prez O outlined in his State of the Union address Tuesday night: education, jobs, innovation and government reform.

Here’s from a NYT article:

“We need to out-innovate, outeducate and outbuild the rest of the world,” he said. “We have to make America the best place on earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper.”

OK. Now that Date Night is history — and no, I never heard from Kirsten Gillibrand or Steny Hoyer — let’s see if members of Congress and the administration are still riding as Howard Fineman calls it the “Love Train.” An excerpt:

It wasn’t Kumbaya, it was more. We have finally witnessed it: a “Love Train” Moment in the capital.

The president almost made John Boehner cry by praising him as a working class hero. That was to be expected. But in his tour-de-force of good fellowship Tuesday night, Barack Obama went further.

For an hour or so, he shrewdly (and in his own interest) ended the anger of our politics, even though he had been a full-throated participant in some of its mayhem minutes in the last two years.

Instead, when he was done delivering his feel-good, oh-so-sensible and sotto voce State of the Union address, I expected the sound system in the House to begin blasting the O’Jays’ classic–and to see the members dancing in a conga line in the aisles, Coors Light in hand.

Well, while the conga line was forming in Congress, there are still millions of Americans standing in unemployment lines. Clearly, creating jobs is now job one for the administration and Congress — and for the business community that is the engine of job growth, not government.

But in the long run we are facing an economic and political shit storm unless we figure out ways to improve education in this country at all levels.

Here’s an interesting perspective in WaPo from George Will, “Getting American students to find the goal posts of success“:

“Since 1995 the average mathematics score for fourth-graders jumped 11 points. At this rate we catch up with Singapore in a little over 80 years . . . assuming they don’t improve.”

- Norman R. Augustine, retired CEO of Lockheed Martin

Will: What America needs, says one American parent, is more parents who resemble South Korean parents. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, 46, a father of a third-grader and a first-grader, recalls the answer Barack Obama got when he asked South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, “What is the biggest education challenge you have?” Lee answered: “Parents are too demanding.” They want their children to start learning English in first rather than second grade. Only 25 percent of U.S. elementary schools offer any foreign-language instruction.

Too many American parents, Duncan says, have “cognitive dissonance” concerning primary and secondary schools: They think their children’s schools are fine, and that schools that are not fine are irredeemable. This, Duncan says, is a recipe for “stasis” and “insidious paralysis.” He attempts to impart motion by puncturing complacency and picturing the payoff from excellence.

He notes that 75 percent of young Americans would be unable to enlist in the military for reasons physical (usually obesity), moral (criminal records) or academic (no high school diploma). A quarter of all ninth-graders will not graduate in four years. Among the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, only four (Mexico, Spain, Turkey and New Zealand) have dropout rates higher than America’s, whose 15-year-olds ranked 23rd in math and 25th in science in 2006. Canadians that age were more than a school year ahead of their American counterparts; Koreans and Finns were up to two years ahead. Within America, the achievement gaps separating white students from blacks and Hispanics portend (according to a McKinsey & Co. study) “the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.”

We need to invest in education — and in teachers — with the urgency of federal employees and others Inside the Beltway fretting over a snow storm.

Otherwise, we’re facing a shit storm in our efforts to create millions of quality jobs, compete with other nations in what is a global economy, and maintain our economic prosperity.

Just sayin’.

The BP State of the Union?

Well, I didn’t get asked out for Date Night. So I guess I’ll be alone Inside the Beltway tonight as the State of the Union address plays out not far from my hotel and I search for presidential insights, context for the big issues and a triple Jameson. Not necessarily in that order.

And if the previews of Prez O’s remarks are accurate, he is going to focus on jobs, spending in key areas — let’s hope education is one of them — to strengthen the economy and cutting the federal deficit.

All big fish that need to be fried like, uh, right now.

The question is how — since it appears that spending (watch for the new Inside the Beltway buzzword, “investments”) and cutting the federal deficit are at odds.

So why not use the State of the Union as a money-maker? Why not sell the naming rights?

The BP State of the Union.

C’mon, admit it. That has kind of a neat ring to it.

Or have VP Joe decked out in a suit loaded with product labels — like the NASCAR folks — featuring Starbucks, Pepsi, GM, McDonalds, maybe even Goldman Sachs. I don’t know. I don’t have all the details worked out as yet. But you get the picture.

And actually, I got this idea from a new film by Morgan Spurlock that he previewed at the Sundance Film Festival over the weekend, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”

Here’s from the story in USA Today:

After the premiere of The Greatest Movie Ever Sold at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend, corporate sponsors featured in the film trooped up on stage to join director Morgan Spurlock, who wore a suit emblazoned with their brand names and logos.

The documentary by Spurlock, best known for 2004′s Super Size Me, is an exploration of product placement. And it’s financed entirely by product placement.

Jumping off a point made by academic experts who said advertisers try to make consumers feel they can’t be happy without a certain product, Spurlock announced: “I’m 40% happier.”

And he has something else to be happy about. The film was purchased for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics, the first acquisition of the 10-day Sundance festival. It’s scheduled to open in theaters in April.

The sponsors represented included Pom juice, JetBlue, Ban deodorant, Mini Cooper, Hyatt hotels and the island of Aruba.

“We tried to get money from everybody,” said Spurlock. “We called 500 to 600 brands. Ultimately we ended up with 15 in the movie.”

Some wouldn’t even entertain the idea of being in the film.

“We tried to get BP to come and sponsor us,” Spurlock said. “Because if anybody needs a brand makeover, it’s BP.”

See, maybe I’m on to something here. The congressional and administration pooh-bahs are missing out on a significant revenue-generating opportunity. No wonder the USA is sucking the economic tail-pipe. I digress.

The BP State of the Union.

Now that’s something that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle — and those sitting holding hands tonight in the middle — can jump up and cheer about.

Pittsburgh Steelers and Congressional Date Night

Well, I still haven’t heard from Kirsten Gillibrand, or Steny Hoyer for that matter, about the State of the Union social mixer Tuesday night: “Holding Hands and the State of the Union.” But if invited to attend, at least I’ll have something to chitchat about. The Steelers are heading to the Super Bowl — as usual. Woot.

And I expect that disappoints many of the gasbags in the national lamestream media — most anchored in New York City — who view coach Rex Ryan as the story for his chatter behind the podium. The Steelers, of course, just go about the business of playing championship football on the field. Go figure.

Here’s from Sally Jenkins, writing in WaPo: “2011 AFC championship: Steelers’ play spoke louder than the Jets ever did.”

All of a sudden, there wasn’t much to say. The Pittsburgh Steelers had shut up the New York Jets abruptly and completely. They beat the smack out of them by halftime, and then smothered them, choked them off, and practically did everything but stuff rags down their throats.

All season the Jets had been the noisiest team in the league. But it’s pretty hard to talk when you’re getting blasted off the ball and knocked tumbling backward on to your butt. Which was what happened for much of this AFC championship game at Heinz Field. Let’s put it this way: It was as much of a laugher as a 24-19 score could be. The Steelers led by 24-0 with 1 minute 13 seconds left in the first half, and they still led by two touchdowns at the start of the fourth quarter. Then, when it got close, they beat down a feisty Jets rally led by Mark Sanchez with a goal line stand. The right team is going to the Super Bowl.

“The game is played out on the field, and words can’t make you play any better,” Steelers linebacker James Farrior said.

The Jets were a team of big mouths, playing on big emotions summoned by their roaring Coach Rex Ryan. But they were finally met by something bigger, a great surging team in the Steelers. Everything about the Steelers seemed huge, from their Mountain Man of a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, to Troy Polamalu’s massive flying wedge of hair, to the way they physically overwhelmed the Jets at every important turning point in the game. When the clock finally ran out the Jets stood on their sideline, sullen and still. Ryan issued a curt, wordless handshake to Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin and trudged into the tunnel, leaving all the big words and emotion behind him on the field, where Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor was sailing around with his arms open, imitating a Jet doing a crash landing.

Maybe there is a lesson here for the congressional pooh-bahs as they attempt to usher in a new era of civility — even symbolically — Tuesday night: actions really do speak louder than words.

So regardless of the rhetoric, we need action to create jobs, strengthen education and reduce what really is a crippling national debt.

Still, if invited to attend and if Kirsten asks me about the Super Bowl during Prez O’s remarks, I’ll jump out of my seat, wave the Terrible Towel and holler: “Go Steelers.”

I expect that would get the loudest ovation of the night.

Holding Hands and the State of the Union

Well, I’m heading Inside the Beltway for a few days this week. In fact, I’ll be there Tuesday when Prez O gives his  State of the Union remarks. Full discloser: I haven’t been invited to attend as yet. But if I do, will I have to come up with a date?

Seems that’s the big issue playing out on Capitol Hill right now. Apparently the seating assignments for the big event are going to resemble an eighth-grade dance: find a friend to sit by, gently hold hands, and be cautious and politically correct to an extreme. And if that helps move the civility ball forward — even symbolically — then I’m OK with it. Would like to think we could do better. But, hey, maybe it’s a start.

Saying that, is Joe Wilson — he of “You Lie” fame — still in Congress? If so, I wonder who draws the short straw and has to sit next to him. I digress.

Anyway, here’s the skinny from the NYT article “As State of the Union Nears, Congress Plays Musical Chairs.”

Mary from Louisiana asked Olympia from Maine because they are BFFs, but had a backup in Bob from Tennessee in case she was rebuffed. Kirsten from New York went the Sadie Hawkins route and asked John from South Dakota, and thus the deal between two members of the Senate with seriously good hair was sealed.

And:

Others who have paired off include Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, generally considered two of the more well-coiffed and attractive members of the Senate.

And more:

Since mere moments after the idea was broached, lawmakers have also found themselves under steady questioning from the news media — local and national — demanding to know just whom they plan to sit with. It has made for some pressure, perhaps even some sweaty palms, in finding an available partner.

“Steny Hoyer and I try to talk quite often,” Representative Kevin McCarthy ofCalifornia, the No. 3 House Republican, told reporters, making his availability quite clear. “I would enjoy sitting next to him.”

Of course, no symbolic act in Congress — or elsewhere — goes without some scrutiny. Again, from the NYT article:

Not everyone, though, is feeling the vibe.

“I already believe very firmly that it is a trap and a ruse that Democrats are proposing,” Representative Paul Broun, a conservative Republican from Georgia, said in a radio interview. Other Republicans have also scoffed at the idea as childish and irrelevant, calling it an effort to muzzle Republicans and prevent them from expressing reservations about Mr. Obama’s speech.

Asked whom the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, would sit with, his spokesman, Don Stewart, said, “Whoever sits next to him.”

OK. So there is no confusion, here’s where I stand on all this.

If Kirsten Gillibrand calls and invites me to be her date, I’m down with that.

But with my luck it will be Steny Hoyer.

Sheesh.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Winning Is the Only Standard

OK. The professional football season moves into its second week Sunday. And the road to the Super Bowl goes through Pittsburgh, as usual. And since it is going to be frigid and snowy in Northeast Ohio, I might as well go ahead and plan to spend Sunday in front of the TV — holding my Terrible Towel in one hand and clutching a triple Jameson in the other.

Wouldn’t fans in Cleveland, Akron, Canton and so on save themselves considerable angst and disappointment if they just became citizens of the Steeler Nation? I digress.

Whether you like the Steelers or not, I expect most would agree that over the last four decades the franchise — players come, players go — has been one of the most successful in pro sports. And the Steelers, mostly because of the leadership and management of the Rooney family, have accomplished this with a certain degree of dignity and humility.

Here’s from a NYT article by Judy Battista, “Steelers Ready for Big Game That’s Just a Game“:

Down the hall on the way to the Steelers offices are the shiny silver totems of a franchise. Their standard is so simple that when Coach Mike Tomlin was asked what it meant to play like a Steeler, he could sum it up in one word: “Win.”

And more:

So far, that has worked for the Steelers. While the Jets are the charismatic upstarts trying to emulate the run the Steelers made in the 2005 season from sixth seed to champion — the only time a sixth seed made it to the Super Bowl — the Steelers have turned conference championship weeks into a winter ritual as familiar as the missing teeth in Jack Lambert’s grin. This is their 15th A.F.C. championship game, the most appearances by any team since the 1970 merger between the N.F.L. and the American Football League.

In the airport on Tuesday morning, the “Go Steelers” signs were already flashing, the statue of Franco Harris making his Immaculate Reception was the focal point of travelers’ photos (George Washington, in full Revolutionary War regalia, stood ignored, steps away), the piles of Terrible Towels were stocked at the souvenir stores.

“The only story line we have is six trophies, and we’re trying to get another one, and that’s what we’re working towards,” safety Ryan Clark said Monday.

I want the Steelers to win Sunday. And I want them to get another Super Bowl trophy whenever that game is played, apparently this year in concert with the opening pitch of baseball season.

But I would feel better about this if the Steelers were going for the gold without Ben Roethlisberger. Would the Steelers be hosting the Jets on Sunday without Big Ben? Maybe not. And I’m sure that was the ethical dilemma — and ultimately business decision — that the Rooneys and the football staff faced this spring and fall.

Here’s the back-story from Karen Crouse in the NYT, “In Pittsburgh, a Quarterback Split“:

Since entering the league in 2004, Roethlisberger has delivered two Super Bowl titles and brought shame upon the city. Twice Roethlisberger, 28, has been accused of sexual assault, more recently last March by a 20-year-old college student who said he raped her in a bar restroom in Milledgeville, Ga., after a booze-filled night. No criminal charges were filed in part because of insufficient DNA evidence. Roethlisberger was ordered into counseling by the league, which suspended him for the first four games of this season.

On Saturday, Roethlisberger will lead the Steelers in an A.F.C. divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, and while Pittsburghers are firmly behind their football team, not everybody will be cheering for Roethlisberger.

He divides Pittsburgh, the City of Bridges, the way the Allegheny River does downtown from the north shore, with the split occurring mostly along gender lines. Men generally seem of a similar mind as Kenny, a sexagenarian nursing a beer at Jack’s Bar on Thursday morning who ascribed Roethlisberger’s behavior to youthful indiscretion and said, “No charges were filed, so I don’t pay any attention to it.”

Women were less forgiving, their ambivalence exemplified by Cecelia, a sexagenarian hotel employee who said she was tuning out Steelers games as long as Roethlisberger was on the team. “I watched the first four this season, but none since he came back,” she said. “It kills me because I really, really love the Rooneys.”

OK. Big Ben wasn’t convicted of anything — not even charged in the incident in Georgia. So maybe you just write this off as him being another self-absorbed jerk of an athlete, not alone by any means in the pros, college or even high school. And if the Fan-in-Chief is OK with giving Michael Vick a second chance, well, you get the picture.

Still the situation overall involving Big Ben strikes me as being, well, not in line with the history or tradition or culture of the Steelers.

And I hope winning doesn’t become the only standard for the black and gold.

If it does, then the Steelers become just another team.

Just sayin’.