I am not going to recap the Super Bowl for you. Everyone watched it, right? OK. Good. I am a sports fan, so I obviously watched as well. I am an Eagles fan, so I had no real skin in the game. I actively rooted for the 49ers, though, and there are two words that explain why: Ray Lewis. In case you had somehow missed it, the celebrated middle linebacker from the Ravens was playing his final NFL game. Lewis represents everything that is wrong in professional sports, in my opinion, and the incessant focus on him made the days leading up to this game somewhat unbearable.
My opinion has nothing to do with Ray Lewis’ ability as a football player. He has had a fantastic career, and is sure to be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. He has also been, by all accounts, a tremendous leader for his team, and that team has had a lot of success during his time there. No, my issues are unrelated to his actual on-the-field performance. The problem starts with the events of January 31, 2000, just after Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta. Lewis and his friends got into some kind of fight with some other men outside of a club late that night. Two of the men were stabbed to death. Blood was found in Lewis’ limousine, and the white suit he had been wearing was never found. He and two of his buddies were each charged with two counts of homicide, but Lewis got his downgraded to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge in return for his testimony against his friends. He admitted to lying to police after the incident, and his weak testimony was not even effective enough to get the other two men convicted.
The thing I hear whenever I bring this up to a Ravens fan is that people deserve second chances, and that this redemption story is one that should be told. I think those people are confused. As much as I dislike Michael Vick, he has a redemption story that should be told. He went to jail for his crimes, has owned up to them, and has spent time and effort since then working to counteract the actions that got him in trouble in the first place. Ray Lewis has done none of those things. He has never spoken about the details of that night, and has done nothing but duck questions about it for years now, hiding behind his religion like a coward. Playing well on the field after getting in trouble off of it is not my idea of redemption. Two men are dead, and Lewis is a very rich man with fans and media bowing to him at every turn.
The other thing that makes me root against Lewis is the constant “look at me” crap that he does at every opportunity. That ridiculous dance that he does at the outset of every game may psych his team up, but it is also all about putting the focus on Lewis. I know that it takes a certain amount of egotism to make a great player, but I find it a lot harder to root for players who wear it so openly. In the Super Bowl, Lewis was wearing gold cleats that listed his career accomplishments on the bottom. That’s right…his own shoes listed his personal stats. Is that really what football is about? For a guy that is supposed to be a great leader, I can’t imagine how people don’t take him to task for the example he sets. He is so self-important that he stated, after announcing his retirement, that he made the announcement before the end of the season so that the fans would have a chance to, essentially, celebrate and thank him for his career. He didn’t want to retire once the games were over and deny them the chance to show him how much they love him, I guess. He’s a pretty magnanimous guy, I must say. I have heard very little from the press about this aspect of things, but I do want to give credit to Amani Toomer, the former Giants wide receiver, who spoke this week about this very subject, calling out Lewis for being self-centered.
I haven’t even mentioned the controversy that broke out earlier this week when it was reported by Sports Illustrated that Lewis had used some kind of bizarre, deer-antler based illegal substance during his recent comeback from a torn tricep. That story remains to be played out, but I would not be surprised if he turns out to be a cheater in addition to possibly being a murderer.
I know why the television sports industry wanted to put the focus on Ray Lewis, of course. What could be better for ratings? I can’t figure out why the league would do so much to promote him, though, considering his criminal past, especially with it being essentially unresolved. I guess people have short memories, and flamboyant players like Lewis make people watch, especially when they are great players to boot. I am glad he is going away.
Bad sports, continued:
2) The power outage during the Super Bowl was pretty hilarious. I am not sure why I found it so funny, but the idea that a game being broadcast around the world, with hundreds of millions of people watching, would have to kill 34 minutes while waiting for the Superdome’s power to come back on struck me as really funny. What an embarrassment.
3) 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver was the latest athlete to make an ass of himself by making homophobic remarks during an interview on media day at the Super Bowl early in the week. He then compounded his mistake by not only issuing a lame apology that was clearly not written by him, but also by playing horribly during the game itself.
4) A Vancouver man who won a trip to the Super Bowl from Bud Light Canada had to miss the game after being denied entry into the U.S. because of a 30-year-old conviction for marijuana possession. D’oh!
5) Jozy Altidore, a striker for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, was the target of racist chants by fans of FC Den Bosch, the team AZ Alkmaar was playing in a quarterfinal match in the Hague on Tuesday. He scored a goal in his team’s win, and also convinced the officials to not stop the game due to the taunts.
6) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a rookie for the Charlotte Bobcats, got a concussion when he collided with Jeff Taylor, one of his teammates, while going for a rebound during the team’s loss to Houston on Saturday night.
7) Seattle Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill was arrested on Tuesday and charged with assault and unlawful imprisonment after apparently beating up his girlfriend.
8) X-games athlete Caleb Moore, who was injured a couple of weeks back when he crashed his snowmobile during an event, died of his injuries on Thursday. He was 25.
9) A day after Moore, another 25-year-old athlete died as well. Boxer Omar Henry died on Friday of gall bladder cancer.
10) It used to be that a player’s jersey would be retired at some point after his or her career was over, when the full breadth of the player’s accomplishments had crystalized and been fully appreciated. These days, though, everything seems to need to be instantaneous. Jabari Parker, a star high school basketball player in Chicago, had his number retired by his school last week, despite the fact that he not only hasn’t graduated yet, he is still playing basketball there. Huh?
1) The Caltech baseball team won a game on Saturday, beating Pacifica by a score of 9-7. Why is this news? The win broke a 228 game losing streak, dating back to 2003.
2) Phil Mickelson shot a 60 at the Phoenix Open on Thursday, narrowly missing a fabled 59 when his putt lipped out on his final hole.
Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday
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