Hating Ray Lewis is an endurance sport. It has been around since 2000 and hinges mostly on “He’s A Double Murderer” sentiment, which is why this Deer Antler Spray controversy (words I never thought I’d type in succession) came along at just the right time.
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The whole double murder thing was just beginning to lose steam, mostly because of elapsed time and lack of proof. Now people get to hate him anew for (a) supposedly squirting the velvety remains sheared off genetically engineered baby deer antlers under his tongue to enhance his football playing and injury recovery or (b) shaming anybody who dared ask about the Deer Antler Spray with a fire and brimstone sermonette.
And Ray Lewis did not disappoint on (b) Wednesday, launching into a somewhat combative, very preachy takedown of the “coward” that ratted him out to Sports Illustrated and the idiots in the media embarrassing themselves by giving it credence.
“It’s a joke,” Lewis said, “if you know me. I tell (my teammates) all the time — and this is what I try to teach them — is don’t let people from the outside ever come and disturb what’s inside. That is the trick of the devil. The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. … I don’t care what nobody says about us, or what they want to report. I’ve been in this game 17 years, 17-plus good years, and I have a heck of a relationship and too much respect for the business, and my body, to ever violate like that. So, to entertain foolishness like that from cowards who come from the outside and try to destroy what we’ve built, like I said, it’s sad to even entertain it on this type of stage.”
Why we do is because many believe Lewis is “not a good guy” and so, of course, they pile on him about the baby deer fuzz he may or may not have ingested. And this is why, in a Super Bowl that features Lewis and 49ers receivers Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree, all players who for one reason or another have been labeled “not a good guy” at one time, it is time we exposed the lie of the good guy in sports.
It is polluting sports. It is also B.S.
How many more examples do we need? Joe Paterno was a good guy until we found out he wasn’t. Lewis might be a bad guy, but we do not really know. Lance Armstrong was the best of guys, single-handedly taking on cancer, until it became clear what an absolute lying, maniacal bully he was. A couple of weeks ago, Crabtree was painted a bad guy because of sexual assault charges against him, except the district attorney’s office decided not to pursue charges. With Moss, it was then-coach Brad Childress saying when the Vikings released him in 2010 that “we want good people that are good football players and this just doesn’t fit.” I guess we are supposed to believe that being brash and entitled and a sometime malcontent determines what kind of person you are in all situations.
“Very rarely is a reporter or any analyst spending any time with a player,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said when I asked about this “good guy” phenomenon, “so y’all do not know us at all.”
He is so right. We see the pre-packaged, sanitized version athletes and coaches want us to see. In reality, we do not have a clue. It is like life, where we think we know people and they disappoint or shock us, either by their inherent goodness or the evil we never saw coming. We like it this way, too, this building up of good guys and tearing down of bad ones. The dishonesty is in our insistence that we know the difference.
About the only thing we can know is how good or bad of a player and teammate a guy is, and even that involves a fair amount of our biases.
Take Lewis, for instance. If the Deer Antler Spray imbroglio has revealed anything, it is how beloved he is by Ravens players. This is informative. They would know if he is a phony. They would be infuriated by his sermons. They would want everybody to know. So they would answer questions about him and antler enhancements much like I imagine Yankees players will about A-Rod and his latest link to PEDs — “no comment” or “you’ll to have to talk to Alex about that mess. I don’t know.”
This is absolutely not what I heard from Ravens players like Suggs and Ed Reed. They not only did the obvious thing of defending him but went on the attack for their leader, their teammate, their guy. They are using this as a rallying cry, which frankly makes them a little more dangerous going into Super Bowl XLVII.
Now does this mean Lewis is a good guy and people should get over hating him? I don’t know. I do not know what went down in Atlanta in 2000. I do not know how generous he is with his friends, if he helps his kids with their homework, if he secretly rubs Deer Antler Velvet all over his body daily.
What I do know is that we don’t know and sports would be a lot better if we stopped perpetuating the lie of the good guy.