MORRISSEY: Ray Lewis’ shady past forgotten by media, fans
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org January 28, 2013 10:45PM
Wild Card Playoffs - Indianapolis Colts v Baltimore Ravens
RAVENS VS. 49ERS
5:30 P.M. Sunday, Ch. 2
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Updated: January 29, 2013 8:24PM
NEW ORLEANS — Forget love. Amnesia conquers all.
We know it for sure because this is Ray Lewis’ Super Bowl. He owns it. Brace yourself for a week of shameless fawning over the Ravens linebacker, the one who was involved in an incident 13 years ago that left two men dead and had Lewis reportedly paying out a huge amount of settlement money.
Murder? What murder? Son, we’re talking about football and swan songs this week!
It’s amazing what a little forgetfulness can do for you. The strangest part of it is that Lewis doesn’t even have to ask for it. America would prefer to reminisce about his play in the 2001 Super Bowl than ponder how his suit mysteriously disappeared the night of the bloody double stabbing outside an Atlanta nightclub the year before.
He is here as Hero, the lion in winter letting out one last roar before retiring after 17 NFL seasons. The cameras have followed him all year. The writers have written odes to his leadership and infectious enthusiasm.
On Monday evening, he sat before a group of cameras and reporters, and a good time was had by all. No one seemed to want to know about the murders or the fact that Lewis testified against two members of his entourage or that nobody was convicted of the crimes.
They did want to know about his ill grandmother, about Sunday’s Super Bowl being his final goodbye and about the advice he had been giving young teammates about the big game. About the vibe inside Baltimore, his team’s readiness, his first NFL sack.
About anything and everything but that.
Then a real, live uncomfortable question: Why has the country forgotten your off-field problems from years ago?
“They’re really learning what my character is,’’ Lewis said. “My character is simply just to make this world a better place, to encourage people that no matter what you’re going through . . . it’s your mind-set while you’re going through it. When you see all the support that I’m getting right now, I’m in total awe of the respect that people have for someone who has been through adversity but found his way out.’’
I’m in awe of the way sports fans throw themselves at a superstar athlete, no matter how unpleasant his past might be.
It’s possible that Lewis sincerely regrets whatever his role was in the stabbings. For all I know, he goes to bed every night thinking about the men who were killed. But to honor him with over-the-top prose, well, I don’t see how you get from what happened in 2000 to here. Two men losing their lives — now that’s adversity, friends.
The media’s role in telling his story, especially TV’s mythmaking, is an embarrassment. Without the deaths being mentioned in the narrative, you’re writing fantasy. It’s like writing about the New World explorers and conveniently forgetting the pesky raping, murdering and pillaging.
Lewis is smart, the same way Lance Armstrong is. He knows that for every person who questions him, there are 50 who want to believe in his story, and that it’s only a matter of time before the many sweep away the few. It’s how we ended up with the gooey prose that came out of the Ravens-Broncos playoff game, when the postgame handshake between Lewis and Peyton Manning was treated like something drawn by Norman Rockwell.
A few stories have trickled out of Akron, Ohio, where the mother of one of the victims has finally forced herself to go see his grave. The Washington Post and the Buffalo News did stories on her. ESPN’s “Outside the Lines’’ explored the murders. Good for all of them.
Rather than wanting to change the world, it appears Lewis would rather get people to change the channel to ESPN. He reportedly will work for the broadcasting giant after retirement. It’s funny how former players intent on helping people so often choose a TV studio, not a community center, as their workplace.
Wes Welker’s wife lost it after the Ravens beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, writing on her Facebook page: “Proud of my husband and the Pats. By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis’ Wikipedia page. 6 kids 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!”
She apologized for such a crude statement, but there was a good, unstated question in there: Why are we lionizing this guy?