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Big Ben 'Helmet Safety Night'


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I found this article somewhat humorous. Perhaps a minor league Pittsburgh team should have a "Cincinnati Bengals - Ex-Convict reform" promotion ? :D




Cincy's Big Ben helmet night for safety's sake, team insists

Friday, December 15, 2006


By Chico Harlan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette




Tonight, a minor league hockey team in Cincinnati is, with the utmost respect, dedicating its latest home game promotion to a certain 6-foot-5, once-foolhardy, once-unhelmeted rival city quarterback whose misfortune -- again, with the utmost respect -- now figures to attract quite the walk-up crowd.


"For litigation's sake," Cincinnati Cyclones PR man John Hamel said, "please note this [promotion] has been referred to as Big Ben Helmet Safety Night. OK? I don't want us to get into any trouble."


No, the trouble was all Big Ben's. In June, Ben Roethlisberger wrecked his supercharged motorcycle and nearly lost his life. Now, he's fully healed -- a quarterbacking miracle, provided he's not facing the Raiders. And the Cyclones, members of the East Coast Hockey League, have adopted Mr. Roethlisberger's cautionary tale -- with, of course, the noblest of intentions.


"We're not taking a shot at him," Cyclones marketing director Sean Lynn said. "It may seem like it ... but ultimately our goal is to raise awareness for motorcycle safety. People get past the initial shock of this, and they see the lining to it."


On the Cyclones' official team Web site, an orange-and-yellow graphic announces the promotion. A little clip-art motorcycle image hovers up top. A generic black bike helmet -- "7" written on the side -- sits beside the message, "click for tickets." Based on league statistics, Cincinnati ranks last in the league in attendance, drawing 1,744 per game.


The Ohio Department of Public Safety will provide pamphlets on motorcycle safety to all in attendance, and every fan will receive a $50 gift certificate for the Cincinnati Plastic Surgery Group -- insurance, so to speak, should fans ignore the pamphlets' warnings. The first 1,500 children at the U.S. Bank Arena will receive foam Cyclone goalie helmets, not intended for actual safety, and two lucky kids will win the drawing for mini rocket-like motorbikes. They stand about 2 1/2 feet tall, Mr. Hamel said, and will come with the requisite safety equipment.


"So yes," Mr. Hamel said, "in reality, there will be two legitimate helmets given away."


The team informed neither Mr. Roethlisberger nor his agent, Ryan Tollner, of the promotion. The quarterback uses his popular nickname in connection with his Web site, his personal foundation and his barbecue sauce.


"So my reaction, I'd like to have a discussion with their PR department," Mr. Tollner said. "If it's for the sake of promotion, some entity stands to profit from Ben's likeness, and that's not legal. I have no problem with the promotion of motorcycle safety, but not at the humorous expense of what Ben went through."


Mr. Lynn hatched the idea sometime in September, after a promotional planning session with his marketing department -- "a whopping two people," he said, counting himself.


Nobody at Cyclones headquarters rode motorcycles, but they valued the chance to promote safety.


After all, the team, for one promotion, had dropped papier mache turkeys from the rafters. On Thursdays, it hosts intermission contests in which fans run the length of the ice, intermittently chugging beers. (Participating fans sign consent forms promising that they won't drive home. Safety first.)


Many fans in the Cincinnati area still recall rooting for Mr. Roethlisberger. The quarterback grew up in Findlay, Ohio, about 2 1/2 hours north. He played college football at Miami of Ohio, in Oxford, some 45 minutes northwest. Still, much of the goodwill disappeared when Mr. Roethlisberger emerged as the Steelers' franchise quarterback. In January, playing in Cincinnati, he and his teammates defeated the Bengals in a first-round playoff game.


The rivalry between southwest Ohio and southwest Pennsylvania burned strong. Even the hockey teams adopt the cause of their football counterparts.


"And you know what, that's the beauty of it," Mr. Hamel said. "We go to Johnstown, [home of the ECHL's Chiefs], and there's this place, Scott's By Dam, a block from the arena. It's a tradition for the fans in Johnstown to go to Scott's By Dam after the morning skate. So we go in there. And the fans and the ownership group heckle you: 'Oh, you're from Cincinnati. How many times have you been arrested this week?'


"So our old standby is, well, when the game is over, at least we get to leave."


The Cyclones happen to play Johnstown on Big Ben Helmet Safety Night. From there, the team's promotional schedule shifts toward the more conventional.


They have a teddy bear toss and a night for NASCAR. Also, to ensure that at least something of import happens for Cincinnatians that day, the Cyclones host the ECHL's only game on Feb. 4, Super Bowl Sunday.

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