One of the main stories of Super Bowl week will be Baltimore Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis, ending a 17-year, sure to be Hall of Fame, career on the biggest stage possible: Super Bowl XLVII which will be watched by 100 million people.
It is the story–if you believe the spin that many outlets are promoting–of coming back from adversity, tragedy and, this season, what looked like a career-ending shoulder (torn triceps) injury.
As the Ravens and San Francisco 49ers got into their Super Bowl week mode in New Orleans on Monday the Ray Lewis story is all of that. But it is something more. Something more troubling, more perplexing.
Ray Lewis, you see has a past which is not out of a Leave it Beaver script vault. It includes a lifestyle which has produced six children mothered by four different women. And even more ominously it includes a chapter 13 years ago when Lewis was implicated and indeed charged in the murder of two men outside of night club in Atlanta.
The murders remain unsolved and Lewis plea bargained the charges to Obstruction of Justice which included one year of probation. The NFL, ever mindful if its image, tacked on a $250,000 fine.
And Ray Lewis Lewis picked up the pieces and turned it into a Hall of Fame career which will end with his retirement after Sunday’s game against the 49ers.
“”How else do you cap off a career,” Lewis asked in a rhetorical nature after the Ravens beat the Patriots two weeks ago in the AFC championship game. ”
Lewis is playing the right cards at the right time. He concedes mistakes, expecting the American public’s propensity for giving second chances to almost everyone who asks to kick in. “Don’t make the same mistakes I made in my life,” he says.
His teammates talk about the inspirational leadership Lewis has provided on and off the field. “His work ethic, everything he brings to the organization has been amazing,” said long time teammate and friend Ed Reed, who will be part of the Ravens’ defense attempting to stop the 49ers on Sunday. “His leadership is like no other I’ve been around.”
Sports has always produced heroes. But in this social media era we now live in, it also has exposed flaws in character in our heroes.
What would have happened if a generation ago, O.J. Simpson had been acquitted of murder in the middle or in the latter stages of a Hall of Fame career? What would the reaction have been if Simpson had been accused, tried and acquitted of murdering his ex-wife the summer before his final season as a running back for the Buffalo Bills?
What would have been a prime story line if the Bills had made it to the Super Bowl in Simpson’s final season?
OJ. OJ. OJ.
Events like the Super Bowl, where the hype is magnified 100 times, make the stories even bigger. By Sunday, everyone who wants to know will know everything there is to know about Ray Lewis’ past. They will know the highlight moments of his career. They will know the low points of his life.
Lewis will talk in somber tones about the mistake he made and how he learned from them.
Some people won’t give a hoot, others will be so offended that they would back any team playing the Ravens to prevent Lewis from ending his career on a highlight note.
To me, Ray Lewis has produced a career worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. He has been a dominant force for 17 years, including this round of playoffs in which he has led the Ravens in tackles. As a football player, his credentials are impeccable
But that’s as far as the story should go. There are second chances in life. Mistakes are made and they should and have been acknowledged.
But in terms of heart-warming stories of redemption? Please. Spare me.
Let’s play the game on Sunday, let’s let Ray Lewis end his career and then let’s move on.
If we must have role models in sports, let’s pick someone else.
Please.© Copyright 2013 Mark, All rights Reserved. Written For: A Jersey Guy