It didn’t take Ray Lewis long to show the rest of the nation what we in Baltimore already knew.
Sometimes Ray just talks to talk.
His “Ravens need better leadership” quote has really stirred the hornet’s nest in Owings Mills, but not because he’s completely wrong on that subject. There’s no one over at 1 Winning Drive arguing that the club will experience some sort of leadership decline with Lewis and Ed Reed no longer around. That’s a given.
But, where Ray WAS wrong is essentially saying that a good leader in the locker room would have somehow prohibited the “Party Bus” incident in Washington DC this past Monday morning.
Joe Flacco summed it up perfectly with his response: “Ray knows better than that.”
I think we’d all agree the “Party Bus” story was wacky, right? I mean, the whole stripper-hits-guy-over-the-head-with-a-bottle thing, while believable, is also the kind of urban legend story that a gossip site like TMZ pays $750 for and then says, “Look what we uncovered…”
It’s about as wacky as some nut job Deer Antler Spray salesman fingering a prominent football player or two the week of the Super Bowl and making that into a Sports Illustrated feature.
I mean, no self respecting football locker room would allow THAT kind of story to surface the week of the Super Bowl, right? Certainly the leaders within the locker room would nip that story in the bud before it created a distraction, right?
In other words — even Ray’s leadership couldn’t keep Mitch Ross from showing up in New Orleans on Tuesday of Super Bowl week with deer antler spray in his pocket and Ray Lewis’ “954” cell phone number in his phone.
Where was Ray the night B.J. Sams got arrested for DUI on 1-83 North right before the 83/695 exchange? Didn’t Roderick Green get stabbed at a bowling alley over in Randallstown? Was Ray not “on duty” that night?
As expected, Ray has taken his job at ESPN quite seriously, which is a good thing. He has one of the greatest “football minds” in the modern history of the game and if he’s able to take that wisdom, knowledge and experience and parlay that into his on-camera work, ESPN will have themselves one helluva football analyst. Ray, though, fancies himself more than that. He looks at himself as the player’s version of Vincent T. Lombardi, a man empowered to teach both on and off the field, even when his playing days are over.
Truth: Ray Lewis was just a football player.
He was a great one. One of the best ever, in fact. But, he was just a guy who put on the helmet and pads and went to work every day like the other fifty two guys on the team.
And he was an extraordinary icon for young players all over the league who watched his play and heard his passion and said, “I wand to grow up and be just like that guy.”
That said, there are plenty of players – many still in the Ravens locker room today – who are thrilled beyond belief that they don’t have to hear Ray yap anymore.
Not everyone was a Ray Lewis fan.
And not everyone is going to understand everything he says because, honestly, sometimes it’s hard to figure out what message he’s trying to send us.
The “Party Bus” didn’t happen because of a lack of leadership in the Ravens locker room.
It happened because football players are grown men and grown men like women and a player on the team had a birthday party and the players did the responsible thing by renting a vehicle and inviting some friends to celebrate with them.
That would have happened with Ray Lewis on the team, as we all know.
If Ray thinks his new job at ESPN requires him to be some sort of cutting edge clairvoyant who can see things differently than the rest of us, he’s half-right about that.
He sees the game of football differently than the rest of us.
And he should tell us about the game ON the field, using his years of experience and greatness to bring the great unwashed closer to the X’s and O’s of one of the world’s most complicated sports.
Leave the off-field stuff to be sorted out by the players still in the locker room, because someone outside the locker room doesn’t really have a grasp on what’s going on in there, now, in the moment.
Ray, as Flacco said, knows better than that.