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Green moved forward, can Ben do the same?

April 26, 2010

Ken Green holed his third shot out of the front right bunker for birdie to close his first round at the 1986 Masters. He never saw the shot, just heard the roar of the crowd.

That gave him a 68 and tied Billy Kratzert for the 18-hole lead, six shots ahead of eventual winner Jack Nicklaus.

Twenty-three years and two months later, Green was driving an RV on Interstate 20 near Hickory, Miss., when the front right tire blew out. The vehicle ran off the road, down and embankment and hit a large oak tree.

Two people and one dog died in the accident - Green's brother, Green's girlfriend of 11 years and Green's dog.

Green also had his lower right leg amputated because of the crash.

Green's life on the PGA Tour was not all roses.

He was a five-time winner in the late 1980s, but also had bouts with clinical depression.

He openly talked some six years ago about his mental struggles. Green said he likened it to how Rick Ankiel and Mark Fidrych forgot to throw strikes while pitching in the major leagues. He said there were times he just couldn't pull back a simple sand wedge from 90 yards.

Green said his struggles really began in the late 1990s when he went through a terrible divorce and custody battle and he lost his wife, children, money, tour card and, most of all, his confidence.

He said he even sat in his car, closed the garage door and left his car running attempting suicide.

Green said he made a conscious decision not to kill himself. But, he still had demons he said eventually crawled into his mind during every golf shot he took.

"Those suckers transformed me from a fearless golfer to a coward puppy," Green said. "I never had a prayer. I could have bent over and hit a two-footer with my hand and told you I was going to miss."

Seven months after the crash, Green's son, 21-year-old Hunter Green, was found dead in his dorm room at Southern Methodist University of prescription drugs and alcohol.

Ken Green stepped foot back on the Champions Tour Friday in Savannah, Ga., in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf with his friend, Mike Reid. They were partners in the better-ball format.

Green rode in a cart and he and Reid shot 67-66-71, to tie for 26th.

How is that for making a comeback?

Steelers fans better get behind Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon rather quickly.

With slug Ben Roethlisberger gone at least through the Oct. 3 home game against Baltimore, No. 7 will be non-existent.

If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has any guts whatsoever, he will keep Ben out the full six games and Roethlisberger will make his first appearance on Halloween Night at New Orleans.

That means the Steelers can be anywhere from 6-0 to 0-6.

I root for 0-6 because Roethlisberger may actually get a large dose of reality if that happens.

According to an "Outside the Lines" report Sunday on ESPN, Roethlisberger was dressed down in a 2006 meeting by former teammate Joey Porter.

"It was just shocking to hear," former safety Mike Logan recalled. "Everyone wanted to say it, but no one (had) said it."

The "it" was the players' grievances against the third-year quarterback.

"Joey, we called him Peezy," former running back Najee Davenport said, "stood up and said, 'I got something to say.'"

Davenport said tensions had been building and building, and everyone in the room was quiet.

Porter then called Roethlisberger out as "the last person in the building and the first person to leave, not being dedicated to the team," Davenport said.

Next, Porter took Roethlisberger to task for separating himself from the team, according to Davenport.

"Last year you used to hang out with us," Davenport recalled Porter saying. "This year, it's like 'the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben.'"

Logan credited the Porter speech for affecting the team and its signal-caller.

"I think that cleared a lot of the air, let the gas out, everyone was like, 'Ahhhhhh, we can breathe now, with it not being so tense now,'" Logan said. "I think it might've opened Ben's eyes a little, just to say, 'Hey, if I am a little more friendly to these guys, if I am a little more open, maybe I'll gain their respect.'"

Said Davenport: "(Porter) was basically telling Ben, 'You're our leader, you've got to be better. We win or lose on you,' and that was his whole thing, in so many words."

Roethlisberger silently absorbed the dressing down, according to Davenport.

Though the others present also kept quiet, Logan said, "It was kind of an eye-opener for everyone to say, 'Wow!'"

The speech "was so powerful," Davenport said, that the Steelers players and staff didn't say anything as they left the gathering. He said even then-head coach Bill Cowher didn't say anything.

"He walked out and everybody got up and just walked out behind him," Davenport said.

"I was walking out and Ben was like right behind me with his hoodie on. I looked around and I seen him, could see it in his face, kind of like a scolding, someone gets in trouble and they really don't want to show emotion, but they're kind of feeling it inside."

Davenport and Logan said Roethlisberger seemed humbled after the Porter confrontation and that he became a more vocal leader and more accessible to his teammates.

Ben is a dolt.

This is a crossroads in his career.

Everything that happens from here out is his choice, just like everything that happened before this mess.

We all have choices every day on how we live our lives.

We choose who we surround ourselves with.

We choose our words.

We choose to be a good teammate.

We choose to do our homework.

We choose how we treat a teacher.

Our actions affect others in just about everything we do.

If a coach calls for a curve and you throw a fastball and that pitch is directly deposited over the outfield fence for a home run, you then get to choose what part of the bench you get to sit on when that same coach pulls you out.

Ken Green chose how he would live his life after the accident.

He chose to get better, become better and live what he constitutes as his normal life.

That is Ben's choice now.

He can be normal as an NFL franchise quarterback or normal as the next inmate if he goes down that same path again.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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