Ray Lewis' divinely inspired retirement tour has been the story of the 2013 NFL Playoffs. With his last game in Sunday's Super Bowl, Lewis has been lauded the last month as one of the all-time greats in the sport. His leadership, passion, and intensity have been endlessly praised. His personality and communication skills have already seen him line up a high-profile media career with ESPN. His spiritual nature has been at the forefront of his journey to pro football's summit.
But the Ray Lewis Retirement Tour is not without footnotes. There have been several looks back to January 2000. Although Lewis was originally charged with murder, he eventually pled guilty to obstruction of justice. With this being Super Bowl week there have been several stories about the family of Richard Lollar, the man killed, emerging. Time has pushed those events in Atlanta to the margins of the Ray Lewis legacy. Those charges don't come to mind when you see Ray Lewis doing his dances, crying in an interview, or being imitated on Saturday Night Live.
Not even deer antler spray and a possible PED scandal can slow down the Ray Lewis retirement train. Sure there are questions, and Lewis has done his best to dodge them this week, but that's all there will be - questions. Lewis hasn't failed a drug test and any PED use won't be proven in the final few days before the Super Bowl.
No, they're still just footnotes. Footnotes to the larger, more glorious story of one of the game's great warriors departing in style on the grandest stage of them all. That's what these playoffs have all been about - the football legacy of Ray Lewis. That's the way Ray Lewis wants it. He didn't want to rob you of the chance to say goodbye to him. Seriously. Once Sunday comes around, Lewis will be celebrated once again with his last dance, his last pregame speech, and his last game. NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin spoke to the Baltimore Sun about Lewis and his legacy:
"For what Ray has been through, honestly, I'm a spiritual man with an understanding of ministry," Irvin said. "Ray is using his life experiences to impact the lives of others. Ray had a horrific situation, a horrific situation where lives were lost, but Ray took that horrific mess and turned it into greatness. What I mean by that is Ray went through something to make sure nobody else from Baltimore had to ever go through anything like that ever again.
"We don't talk about this, but I don't hear problems coming out of Baltimore because Ray used his situation to give everybody an understanding. He's one of the greatest to ever play this game, on and off the field. People point back to the situation he was in and that's fine. But when you talk about the downs he got to, also talk about the highs. He's been incredible."
The redemption of Ray Lewis and his ascent to mythical status didn't happen overnight. His murder charge wasn't always a footnote. In the lead-up to Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, with Lewis' Ravens facing the Giants, it was the dominant story. Lewis was only one year removed from a murder charge and he was dogged by the press about what happened in Atlanta.
But Super Bowl XXXV was the night the Ray Lewis story changed.no comments