This blog will be more baseball heavy than anything else, however, it’s not every day that a sports legend suits up for what could be his last game.
All the money in the world. That was typically the response that was given. The question: What would it take to go across the middle against Ray Lewis? Ray has a sort of mystique about him, the same type of mystique that Kevin Garnett has about him. He doesn’t just walk or run on the field. He lurks, prowls, roams, hunts, pursues. That if you say a bad word about him, he will HUNT YOU DOWN. If you say his name 3X into a mirror in the dark he will show up and gut you – no wait thats the Candyman or James Harrison. Ray Lewis became an ordained minister just to put the fear of god into people. Okay so I made that last one up, but it’s not totally unrealistic. It takes a real man to lead 11 men into battle every week for 16+ weeks- a battle where men collide with car crash results, a battle that is only won by those 11 men performing their job without flaw. Ray Lewis has been the ABSOLUTE definition of that leader since Day 1. I’ve often joked that I would follow Ray Lewis and Kevin Garnett into any type of battle or war… thinking about it now, maybe it wasn’t that much of a joke. That’s how great of a leader he is.
RayRay has been the face of the Baltimore franchise since he was drafted and the team relocated to Baltimore. He has been the most feared defensive player this side of Lawrence Taylor and the original Minister of Defense, Reggie White. He has teamed up with and led some of the most devastating defences in the past 20 years. Not to mention that he has played Batman to Ed Reed’s Robin since 2002 (I also know that somewhere in Baltimore Ed Reed just got a bad shiver for being compared to Robin, sorry Ed) The current version of the Ravens feature not only Lewis and Reed, but also Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. That’s 4 players with 90+ ratings in Madden 13!! It’s like a Justice League of defensive players. His numbers and accolades speak for themselves:
• 2000+ tackles, 41.5 sacks, 31 interceptions
• Quickest player to both the 20 sack/20 interception club and the 30 sack/30 interception club
• The only member of the 40 sack/30 interception club
• 13x Pro Bowler
• 7x AP First-Team All-Pro, 3x Second-Team All Pro
• 2x AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 2X AFC Defensive player of the year
• Super Bowl Winner and Super Bowl MVP
• Holds the records for: Most Pro Bowls by an inside linebacker (13) – Record 10x AP All-Pro selection for inside linebacker and tied for most times for linebacker with LT – Record for most games started at inside/middle linebacker (227) – Most interception return yards for an inside/middle linebacker (503) – Most seasons played at inside/middle linebacker (17)
• Member of the NFL 2000’S All Decade Team
Ray Lewis is one of those once-a-generation players, the kind of player that you tell your kids and grandkids about. The kind of player that other players get compared to – “He’s the next Ray Lewis…” Lewis is one of those guys that you start making his case for the best inside/middle linebacker of all-time. Personally, I have him behind Butkis, but ahead of Singletary. His peers recognized him as #18 on the top 100 NFL Players of All-Time. He’s the guy that you want to be when you’re playing pickup ball with your buddies. He’s the guy you emulate when you play in high school. Everybody wants to get the team fired up like RayRay does. How he leads the Ravens out there every week with The Dance, followed by some form of pregame speech to the defense. The way the others snarl and bark back at him is like watching a pack of dogs getting ready to be fed. You think he’d be the one to feed them; instead he’s the hungriest dog in the pack. He’s the guy that will get you to run threw a brick wall at any cost.
I’ve been actively watching football since Terrell Davis and the Broncos ran all over the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII (’97 season). I grew up an Eagles fan, and despite their best efforts this season, I’ll probably always be an Eagles fan. I have my pops to thank for that one. However, unlike baseball and hockey where my home town actually has a team to cheer for… well sometimes… I really have no REAL allegiance to any NFL team, except for the Eagles due to inheritance. It is because of this that I become rather promiscuous with whom I cheer for from time to time. One thing that has never wavered though since I begin watching football has been my love for the Eagles, and my absolute respect, fear, admiration and love for Ray Lewis. There have always been two things that I can look forward to on Sundays from September to January: watching the Simpsons and watching RayRay put a hurt on somebody. It’s hard to believe that one of those is coming to an end (although the Simpsons have been running on fumes and name recognition for years now). With every season that’s passed I’ve begin to worry about the inevitable day when Ray hung up the cleats. Unlike Ed Reed who threatens retirement every season, Ray has never held it over anyone’s head. That’s why it came as a shock when he declared that this postseason would be his last ride. I always thought that he would make a comeback and play one last season; especially when this season was a right off for him with torn triceps. Even torn triceps couldn’t keep him down, telling GM Ozzie Newsome to “leave him off” the IR and thus ending his season. It’s similar to the way that MLB and Yankee fans were almost cheated from witnessing the great Mariano Rivera’s swan song. Some players have played well past their primes and almost tarnished themselves in order to achieve personal accolades and records or just to hang onto the game they love playing. Some walked away too soon or could never reach their full potential because of injury or futility. It’s hard to imagine players getting better with age, especially in football. But Ray Lewis proved it wrong. His last 5 years were almost, if not better, than any 5 seasons of his career.
So if this Sunday really is the last time that I get to see #52 parade out of the tunnel in Raven purple – although the black on black is the best uni in sports – Dance the last dance of his career and fire up the defense for one last time. At least he did it before he burned out, and definitely before he faded away.