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Junker: Big Ben a far-reaching topic

| Sunday, July 25, 2010, 12:00 p.m.

We just returned from our yearly visit to the Atlantic Ocean. This year's stop was Myrtle Beach.

As they do in vacation towns, people asked "where are you from?"

When the answer "Pittsburgh" came back to them, every one of them would respond "what's up with Ben Roethlisberger?"

It's amazing the interest and cloud his indiscretions have created with people who otherwise would not be talking about the Steelers.

» Speaking of the Steelers, they are about to open their 45th training camp at Saint Vincent in Latrobe. I pondered that over a Rum Runner and shuddered a bit to think that I have covered 30 of those 45. It's why, instead of chasing my little girl in the waves, I'm chasing boys away from her. And I don't think they wanted to ask her about Roethlisberger.

» I read that Major League Baseball has implemented random testing for human growth hormone in the minor leagues. I glanced away from the incredibly tanned lifeguard as she skimmed leaves from the pool surface, to look up the major-league leaders. Former Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista's 26 home runs were tops. And it's almost August. How different would the record books look if they had been doing this, as well as the already implemented steroid testing, 15 years ago• Then again, how much does the average fan care?

» While people in other parts of the country want to know about Ben Roethlisberger, so do local Steelers fans. In a different way, though. In one of the most intriguing training camp issues ever, it will be interesting to see how coach Mike Tomlin prepares his quarterbacks for the regular season. One, presumably, to start the first month or so, the other, to start the rest of the season.

» The news of Kaye Cowher's death hit hard. She was a terrific woman and one that happened to be the exact same age as me. While vacation and, particularly, the beach, is a great place for contemplation, it scares me tremendously how quickly time passes. My own family probably has only a few more of these trips left where we will all be together. In just a couple of years, two of the three kids will be in college. While grateful we can afford to do this in these tough economic times, our lives are so fragmented already that we hardly ever spend time together as a unit. And I used to wonder why my mother would get so upset when we weren't all together for dinner.

» I was stunned to hear about the New Jersey Devils' $102-million deal with Ilya Kovalchuk, although not particularly motivated to think much about it until the NHL rejected it for trying to circumvent the league's salary cap. It was also nice to read that Simon Gagne left the Flyers for Tampa.

» My kids hardly ever stopped texting, even on the beach. My cell phone sat on the night stand all week, next to the ceramic turtle, and I only looked at it before going to sleep to make sure there were no emergencies. Cell phones and e-mails are a big part of the reason I needed a vacation.

» One of the saddest moments of the year for me is pulling away with the ocean in the rear-view mirror. The kids complained on the long drive home that they only had a month of summer vacation left. I reminded them that I didn't have another week of vacation until Christmas. It got quiet. For a few minutes. Bless the chaos. It won't be long before I miss it.

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