Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Getting Away With Murder" Isn't Just An Expression For Ray Lewis

As if I needed more reason to root against the Baltimore Ravens.

Not only did they embarrass my Giants in the Super Bowl in 2000, which is pretty insignificant in scale with the fact that Ray Lewis murdered two people before suddenly becoming Mr. Nice-Guy on TV to fix his image, but now they're adding fuel to the fire.

If you don't know the story, Lewis and two men were brought in for questioning after two other men were stabbed and killed following a bar fight. Lewis denied knowing the other two suspects and when it was determined that he'd lied about that and that the three were friends, were together then night of the murders, and had gotten into a fight with the dead guys, all three were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault. As it turns out, Lewis and a group of friends got into a fight with the two victims, and as many as six men beat the two up before stabbing them and piling into Lewis' stretch-SUV limo and fleeing the scene.

The prosecution had the case won, with witnesses who would testify that they saw Lewis at least punch, and at most stab one of the victims and then brag about it later. As the trial came, all of the witnesses changed their stories, and suddenly Lewis was alleged to have been trying to stop the fight. Lewis was given a deal that he'd serve no time if he plead guilty to lesser obstruction of justice charges and testify against his friends. He took the deal, though he did not implicate in his testimony. No one was ever convicted of the murders, and if Ray Lewis did not do it himself, he was there and knows who did. The NFL didn't even suspend him, after all he was the Super Bowl MVP!

Later Lewis avoided civil trials with the families of the men who were killed by buying them out. After this, Lewis went on a massive P.R. tour, recasting himself as a prayerful, soulful, responsible leader, taking young players under his wing, being the dutiful team veteran. Every announcer I ever heard seemed to buy into this show. Lewis was seen as "a passionate leader," "a warrior," and a "spiritual leader for his team," a role model.

It always seemed to me that while Lewis was clearly the team's leader, and he helped cultivate a proud, fierce and effective defense, he also helped create a bunch of thugs. And this season, they have shown their true colors.

Steelers' rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall, who had been thrust into the starting lineup due to an injury to Willie Parker, and who hadn't played all that well yet, allegedly sent a text message to a friend and former college teammate saying he was expecting a big game against the Ravens that following week. Unfortunately for Mendenhall, his friend (or former-friend, Ray Rice of the Ravens) passed the joke on to his teammates who decided to make bulletin-board material out of it and eventually went out and fractured Mendenhall's shoulder, knocking him out for the season. Adding insult to injury, Mendenhall insists the text never happened in the first place.

Ray Lewis was the player who delivered the hit that fractured his shoulder and afterwards was quite proud of himself. In Sports Illustrated last week, Dan Patrick gave this quote from Lewis: "After the play I wasn't screaming, 'He's hurt.' I was screaming, 'He's done.'" Lewis revelled in the young man's pain, and didn't bother to call for medical help. Patrick went on to write, "The Ravens linebacker said he'd take a hit like that over a sack or an INT any day...Lewis says after a big hit he recites the Lord's Prayer on the way back to the huddle." Quite a role model.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs said of the hit, "We definitely like to send our messages to rookie running backs who think they've made it. We did a good a job of sending a message."

Now the plot has thickened. On a syndicated radio show, Suggs was asked if the team had had a "bounty" on Mendenhall after his text-comments. Suggs replied, "Definitely. The bounty was out on him and the bounty was out on [receiver Hines Ward]." To Suggs' surprise, the league frowns on that type of thing and is now investigating. Suggs attempted to clear up the situation today by telling the Baltimore Sun, "There wasn't any bounty. He [the talk show host] asked me if there was a bounty and I just said I'm going to keep a watch on the guy." So apparently, when Suggs said, "definitely," he meant, "of course not."

No doubt the Ravens did have some sort of bounty on Mendenhall. No doubt Lewis was behind it. No doubt he'll will slip through this one too. After all, the guy already got away with murder, why would a little thing like assault get him down (which is what it would be if they went out with the intent to hurt Mendenhall and then did it)?

Baltimore wound up losing that game against Pittsburgh. Then they lost the next week, and were embarrassed (particularly their defense) by Indianapolis 31-3. They play the Raiders this week, and I truly never thought that this would ever happen in my life, but I will be rooting for the Raiders.

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