Football

Big Ben's night out: good times, no big deal

Sounded like a solid night to me. A dinner of barbecue in downtown Fort Worth, then on the way back to the Omni, a layover at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar.

Except when you are Ben Roethlisberger, such activity draws attention, some of it negative attention, only because the same guy, or gal, who drank up when Ben R bought a round for the house at Pete's then sold their cellphone video to TMZ.

But as the great Charles Barkley describes it, we live in the "jackass generation." Nobody has any privacy anymore, not even momma, or Josh Hamilton falling off the wagon, if the cellphone owner can get his price from the new media.

Other "issues," of course, make Ben R a deserving target. First, there was the big mess last spring, which followed a somewhat lesser-sized mess the spring before. There's absolutely no defense for allowing himself to be in those situations, and it's doubly worse if he's guilty, which was never determined.

Maybe you heard, Ben R is in town for a Sunday football game, so based on his well-documented recent history, plus a rather important football game in five days (Roethlisberger was in Pete's on Tuesday night), there will be those who think the Steelers' quarterback should be locked away in his hotel room, studying the playbook every night.

I understand. Many around here still hold "Cabo" against Tony Romo. Even Ray Horton, the former Cowboy with a Super Bowl ring of silver and blue, and now the Steelers' secondary coach, mentioned the magic "Cabo" word earlier this week.

Asked how head coach Mike Tomlin handles the players' nighttime activity for Super Bowl week, Ray said: "What he tells them is, 'Don't be the one.' Don't be the one who makes the negative headlines, don't be the one who embarrasses the team, don't be the one who goes to Cabo..."

Horton stopped himself there, suddenly realizing what town this was.

"Well, I'd like to go to Cabo myself, but that'd be next week." he added.

Anyway, Romo's sin was not the Cabo trip. Not winning the next week in a home playoff game against the Giants plunged Tony's travels into second-guess hell. Even if that loss was not his fault.

Amazingly, since this is Super Bowl week, the Roethlisberger episode at Pete's did not cause a major media blowup when the video went on TMZ on Thursday. Most of the gathered media mass seemed to understand he was a few blocks from his hotel when he stopped over at Pete's. And if most of the media weren't staying in Dallas, they'd also be checking out Pete's.

But any bar owner I've ever known, and that's been a few, has three points in describing the "perfect patron."

(1) He can hold his booze.

(2) He causes no problems.

(3) He tips out the help fairly.

I agree. That's a good American right there.

On Thursday, I talked with one of the managers at Pete's. He was also working the night shift on Tuesday.

While asking not to be identified, his eyewitness story on Ben R's visit went like this:

"To be honest, we were expecting to see some Steelers, and Tuesday night, [the ice storm had hit], we still had about 50 people in here when Ben walked in with a couple of very large teammates.

"I didn't know what to expect, but they were certainly welcome at our place. And then it became a great evening.

"Ben was unbelievably nice. They all were. They fit in, they were having a good time, and Ben bought a round for the house. Then at closing time, he signed pictures, t-shirts, anything. Those guys are welcome back in here anytime."

Roethlisberger, according to reports, picked up an $800 tab, and tipped out $200.

"All I'll say on that," said the manager, laughing, "is he's the kind of customer any bar in town would like to have. We have local athletes who come in here. Some of them are very rude and very cheap. They could take a lesson from Ben."

Based on reports from Pittsburgh last summer, Roethlisberger was not exactly welcome in many bars there. Rude and cheap was the reputation.

After serving his four-game, Roger Goodell-mandated suspension to open this season, the story from Pittsburgh is he returned a changed man.

Pete's in Fort Worth will testify it's the truth.

But did his Tuesday night venture break the team curfew? No, say the Steelers.

The video picture, although not of high quality, suggests Ben R's vocal version of Piano Man did shatter a couple of glass beer mugs. But that's what you do at Pete's. Sing along. Vocal quality is not a priority.

"He sang well enough to end up on TMZ and ESPN," said the manager, laughing. "That made it a good night of national publicity for us, and it sure seemed to be an enjoyable night for Ben. We enjoyed having those guys, I know that."

After this "extensive investigative report" by me (one phone call), the conclusion is that we can now move along with Super Bowl week. There's nothing to report from Pete's, except everyone seemed to have fun and the waitress got a big tip.

I'm sorry I wasn't in attendance.

Randy Galloway can be heard on Galloway & Co. weekdays 3-6 p.m. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

Randy Galloway, 817-390-7697

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