Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mendenhall starts blog to clarify comments

By Mike Batista

Rashard Mendenhall has broken his 48-hour silence. On Wednesday afternoon, the Steelers' running back started a blog in which he attempted to clarify his Twitter comments about the death of Osama bin Laden.

Without the constraints of Twitter's 140-character limit, Mendenhall expressed an appreciation for our troops and a sympathy for those who lost loved ones on 9/11.

However, there are a couple of things he said that I disagree with. He said "Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man’s death."

First of all, he could have used a little editing. The structure of the sentence is a little unclear. It sounds like he's saying that the United States was the only country celebrating bin Laden's death.

I don't think that's true.

Bin Laden was responsible for the death of not only Americans, but people all over the world. I agree that bin Laden's death might have horrified some, but I think that horror is limited to Muslim extremists. I don't think that segment of the population really amounts to any legitimate "part of the world."

On Sept. 11, 2001, there was video of adults and children in the Middle East celebrating the attacks on America. I'm confident in saying that many more in the world were horrified at those celebrations than the celebrations outside the White House and in Times Square on Sunday night.

Mendenhall deemed our celebration over bin Laden's death "hypocrisy." I disagree. We're rejoicing in the death of one ruthless killer. Bin Laden rejoiced in the death of nearly 3,000 innocent people in a single day.

On his "@R_Mendenhall" Twitter profile, Mendenhall fashions himself a "Conversationalist and Professional Athlete."

At this point in his life "Professional Athlete" needs to come before "Conversationalist."

If it did, he wouldn't be in this mess.

In Mendenhall's last tweet before starting his blog, he said "There is not an ignorant bone in my body. I just encourage you to #think."

OK, fine. We shouldn't always take what we see on the news at face value. But if Mendenhall is going to tell us to "think," as a Pittsburgh Steeler he should think about the fact that he's working for Dan Rooney, the U.S. ambassador to Ireland. He also should think about western Pennsylvania's role as the first theater in the war on terror.

Almost a decade after the heroes of Flight 93 saved who knows how many lives before perishing in Shanksville, elite Navy SEALS came face-to-face with the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and killed him without any casualties to Americans.

Something tells me most of the guys on this highly dangerous mission would have held onto the football had they been hit by Clay Matthews in the Super Bowl.

Unlike Mendenhall, Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes displayed grace under pressure in the Super Bowl, yet Holmes was shipped out of Pittsburgh partly because of Twitter comments, and there was talk that the Steelers tried to get rid of Roethlisberger for his transgressions.

Roethlisberger and Holmes shouldn't have done some of the things they did. Mendenhall, however, does have a right to his opinion and free speech.

Nonetheless, instead of trying to be a historian, whether it comes to 9/11 or slavery, this should be an offseason in which Mendenhall concentrates on learning how to hang onto the football. After all, that is what he gets paid for.

Mendenhall is more articulate and well-rounded than the average football player. He writes poetry and plays the clarinet. Sometimes I wonder if he's too smart and civilized to be a long-term success in this brutal game.

Unless the NFL lockout delays the start of the season, Mendenhall will next play meaningful football on Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of 9/11. If the Steelers were to start the season at Heinz Field, Mendenhall would at best get a lukewarm response from the fans. But the Steelers don't start the season at home. They start it in Baltimore, where Mendenhall is hated to begin with just because he's a Steeler. Imagine the response he's going to get if he doesn't make amends for his comments between now and then.

On the football field, Mendenhall's always been somewhat cloaked in a shroud of mystery. With a talented stable of receivers and an elite quarterback like Roethlisberger, Mendenhall is sometimes an afterthought. Despite his 1,273 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season, he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, I still don't feel like he's broken out as a top-tier running back.

Mendenhall was on the brink of A-List stardom after gaining 121 yards with a touchdown in the Steelers' AFC championship win over the Jets. His 4.5-yard-per-carry clip in that game was sustained in the first three quarters of the Super Bowl.

But his fumble restored the doubts.

My desire for more from Mendenhall is not limited to what I see on Sundays. The enigma transcends the game. Having heard about his interests outside of football, I guess I've wanted to know more about him as a person.

Just not in this way.

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