Exploring Ray Lewis’s Legacy

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I hate hypocrites.

I hate arrogance.

I hate phonies.

Based on those three facts alone, it should come as no surprise that I’m not a huge Ray Lewis fan.  And that, my friends, may be the biggest understatement you’ll ever hear.

A close friend of mine is a huge Ray Lewis fan.  Huge.  Wears a Ray Lewis Miami jersey.  Wants to get a 52 tattooed on his arm.  He’s a fan.

Me?  I hope the opening coin toss at tonight’s Super Bowl goes awry, hits Ray Lewis in his still torn triceps, the PED’s that he’s undoubtedly been using come spilling out all over the Superdome turf, and his arm falls off.  I will acknowledge that this is probably a long shot.

I’ve long said that I’m a sports fan with no morals.  Thankfully, this hasn’t been tested too much, although Miguel Cabrera’s had his issues with being a bad drunk and possibly a wife beater, Barry Sanders was kind of a hypocrite when it came to premarital sex, and a good portion of the key members of the ’04 Pistons were assholes and coach killers (Rasheed and Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton).  Still, I’d root for Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein if they formed a decent offensive line for the Lions.

This is a bit far fetched, and it was tested this past off season when Josh Hamilton was a free agent and there were discussions about Mike Ilitch opening his deep pockets to have Hamilton man left field for the Tigers.  Like Ray Lewis, I acknowledge Hamilton’s obvious skills, but I think he’s a hypocrite and I never want to root for him.  Thankfully, Hamilton signed with the Angels.

Look, there’s no denying that Ray Lewis is a phenomenal football player, one of the best linebackers ever, probably belongs on the first-team all-time defensive players, and is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But he doesn’t deserve to go out on top.

Let’s examine Lewis’s flaws:

Super Bowl Murder

After the 2000 Super Bowl in Atlanta, Ray Lewis and some friends were at a party when a fight broke out.  Two men got stabbed to death.  Lewis and two of his friends were charged with murder.  Lewis eventually pleaded that down to misdemeanor obstruction of justice and testified against his friends.  The men were acquitted and the case remains unsolved.  What’s particularly interesting about this case is that the suit that Lewis was wearing that night was never found.  Lewis came to an undisclosed settlement with the victims’ families and was fined $250,000 by the NFL (but missed no playing time).

Baby Mama Drama

Lewis has 6 children by 4 women.  This isn’t altogether surprising by professional sports standards.  The most famous of these has to be Antonio Cromartie, who has 9 children by 8 women, or Travis Henry, who has 113 children by 98 women (that number may be an estimate).  None of these guys are held up to be shining examples of faith or leadership.  Lewis?  Well he pays his child support, so he must be a great dad.

PED Questions

In week 6 of the 2012 season, Lewis suffered a torn tricep.  This is an injury that routinely ends players’ seasons; a left tackle for the Arizona Cardinals tore his triceps in the 2012 preseason and was immediately placed on injured reserve, ending his season.  Not only was Lewis back only 12 weeks later, he was actually cleared to play 2 weeks before that, but decided to wait until the playoffs started to make his return (and coincidentally announce that he’d be retiring when the season was over).  During Super Bowl week, he was linked to a PED supplier who indicated that Lewis had called for deer antler spray – which contained a banned substance that the NFL doesn’t test for.  Lewis responded that he had never tested positive for any banned substance (again, the NFL doesn’t test for the substance he was accused of using).

“Look At Me, Look At Me”

During the Ravens’ 2012 playoff run, Lewis ended the three games played the following ways:

  • Lined up as the safety in the victory formation so he could perform his patented “Ray Lewis Pregame Dance” one last time in front of his home crowd.
  • Was sought out by CBS cameras after beating Denver and kept repeating, “No weapon formed against us shall prosper.”  Why the cameras were seeking out a defensive player after the offense had bailed them out with a 70-yard touchdown bomb with 30 seconds left in the game is absolutely beyond me.
  • Got down on his knees and bowed his head to the turf as if praying after beating the Patriots to go to the Super Bowl.  We could ignore the crack shot he gave us, but hell, that’s just no fun.

And just for good measure, let’s point out the fact that he’s going to be wearing gold cleats during the Super Bowl.  I’m guessing these will violate the NFL’s draconian uniform rules.  I’m also guessing any fine he receives will be very hush hush.

Ray the Preacher

I’ve got nothing against those who are deeply religious and believe strongly in their faith.  What I have a serious problem with is when people use their religion and their faith as justification for their hate or to prove that they’ve been redeemed for their flaws.  To me, there are simply some things that don’t justify forgiveness.  Until Ray Lewis comes forward and explains what happened that night in Atlanta, I’m going to have a real hard time buying into his preaching.  But it’s not just that.  Any time someone has asked him questions about the murders, or his PED use, he’s invoked God or the Devil and refused to answer the question.  Why the media buys into this I’ll never know, but he seems to have a free pass.

Just for fun, let’s look at the Ten Commandments (and I’m dumbing them down, because, well, I’m pretty dumb):

  1. Have no other gods but God.
  2. Do not worship statues.
  3. Be careful with God’s name.
  4. Keep the Sabbath day special.
  5. Honor your father and mother.
  6. Do not murder.
  7. Keep your marriage promises.
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not lie.
  10. Do not covet.

Based on Ray Lewis’s history, and depending upon what happened in Atlanta, I can think of 7 that Lewis has broken (false idols, honor the Sabbath day, honor thy father and mother – although in his defense his father doesn’t seem like the type of guy who deserves honor, do not murder, adultery, lying and coveting – after all, doesn’t he covet that Super Bowl trophy).  Is it fair?  Probably not, no one – especially me – is perfect.  We all make mistakes.  But most of us don’t hold ourselves up as some sort of religious figure, a leader, someone to revere.

Ray Lewis is a fine football player.  A legend.  But his legacy for what to aspire to ends when he steps off the football field.  This is not a man to admire, or to look at as a role model, or watch on television as an expert (if the expertise of football pundits stopped at the field, fine, but so many times it’s about how players should act, and on that level he’s got no grounds to speak).

So many people have spoken on Lewis’s legacy this week, and a fair amount of them have the same viewpoint I do (you have to search hard for them, because they’re sure as hell not found on any of the big sports websites).  But the way I look at it is this.  When the game ends tonight and Lewis walks off the field, he should simply be forgotten.

It’s just too bad that that’s not going to happen.

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