With the 2013 Superbowl just hours away I can't help but think about one thing - this will be Ray Lewis' final game as an NFL player and I will be among the many sports fans that will hate to see him go. Though I will admit that I am not an avid football fan, I can say I appreciate the entertainment value that larger-than-life personalities bring to professional sports. Ray Ray epitomizes being bigger than the game and has always been fun to watch on and off the field.
A few months ago, I wrote an article about Rasheed Wallace's return to the NBA and what I appreciated about his return to the game. Upon hearing the news of Ray's plan to retire following the completion of the 2012-13 NFL season, I immediately felt the somber feelings of an era coming to an end.
Originally, I didn't know who Ray Lewis was until he made national headlines in 2000 and honestly, I didn't care much about him due to the outbreak of pro athletes squandering their opportunities trying to keep it real. I, like many others, wrote Ray off. Months after his court case, Ray managed to roll out a public relations plan that every PR professional should use as a standard for damage control, branding, and public image. He and his handlers made Ray Lewis a household name and Ray completely embraced his new social responsibilities while also establishing a presence with the media that will never be replicated. He simply found a way to move forward, be himself, eliminate the nonsense, and perform at the highest level possible on the playing field. I immediately became a fan.
Since becoming a Ray Lewis fan, I developed a fond appreciation for his transparency. It didn't matter if the Baltimore Ravens were at the top of the standings or the bottom, Ray was a consummate professional and kept it 100 at all times. As far as his media exchanges were concerned, Ray was an open book and would speak his mind and unlike a lot of his professional sports brethren, Ray backed up his words with his play and motivation of his teammates and also accepted defeat. He didn't dwell long on his words if he had to eat them, he simply moved forward to the next competition and did what Ray Lewis did.
Far too often, professional athletes skirt away from making proclamations for fear of not delivering on their words and it annoys me. It makes me think of the guy in the neighborhood that talks trash to everybody but is afraid to lose a fist fight. I've grown tired of pro athletes being hesitant to make a headline for fear of failure. Sometimes I don't care much about the games, I just need something to sink my teeth into and gives me reason to be intrigued. Ray somehow managed to do this on a weekly basis.
Now that Ray Lewis' time is running short, I am left with memories of his press conferences, pre-game dance moves, and crazy one liners that will keep NFL Films entertaining for years to come. Although I didn't really keep tabs on the NFL this year, I always maintained a connection to Ray Lewis and would love nothing more than to see him go out winning.
Every so often a great athlete comes along that offers so much to his or her chosen sport that the game owes them something. In the case of Ray Lewis, the game of football and all sports fans owe him one final celebration. I personally look forward to seeing a grown man, who has over come adversity and worn his heart on his sleeve, praise God several times on camera, talk about his love for his teammates, and cry tears of joy while giving God more praise.
Only Ray Lewis can get away with this and he simply deserves the opportunity.
Much respect to both teams competing in the 2013 Superbowl. This will be one to remember!
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Disclaimer: Steve is an employee of Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner, however the views expressed in this post are of my own.