With a new Super Bowl champion crowned and the 2013 off-season already in full swing, one of the game's most notable warriors — a warrior that has a lot of history in games against the Indianapolis Colts — is riding off into the sunset.
But not without a trail of mystery, tragedy and sorrow at his heels.
That warrior, is Ray Lewis. His legacy as a one of football's greatest talents ever is ending, but his journey as a regular human being has resumed.
During the next stage of his life, Lewis won’t be celebrating anymore wins on Sunday with his teammates. Lewis, instead, will be taking a shot at life behind the cameras. He'll still be a star, but he will also have a great deal of time to think about the haunting images of two men that were murdered in 2000.
It has been thirteen years, but the answer to what happened on that fateful January night is no closer to being disclosed. If anyone knows what happened, it's still, well, Ray Lewis.
On the field, Lewis was an animal — a rare breed of athlete that ended his illustrious playing career with yet another Super Bowl ring. No one can question Ray Lewis, the player. That’s unarguable.
However, questioning Ray Lewis, the man, is a different story.
After the Ravens thrilling victory over the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, Lewis was ready to provide one of the biggest media venues of the year with his larger than life personality. He was a champion, again, and it was time to let the world know how great
God he felt about it. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. But when would questions about 2000 come? You just knew someone was going to ask about it, but I don't think anyone expected it would come from his ex-teammate, now CBS analyst, Shannon Sharpe.
In an awkward moment, Sharpe started his friendly exchange by teetering around the real question Lewis should have been asked: What happened during that night in Atlanta? But to Sharpe’s "credit," he still posed a question to Lewis, softly or not.
"What would you like to say to the families?" Sharpe asked.
Those families, would be the ones of the two men who were murdered after the 2000 Super Bowl — the families of Jacinth Baker and Richard Loller.
Lewis’ answer? The usual. "God has never made a mistake."
No answers. No acknowledgement of Baker or Loller. Nothing.
"It’s simple, you know," Lewis said. "God has never made a mistake. That’s just who He is, you see? And if our system — this is the sad thing about our system — if our system took the time to really investigate what happened 13 years ago, maybe they would have got to the bottom-line truth. But the saddest thing ever was that a man looked me in my face and told me, ‘We know you didn’t do this, but you’re going down for it anyway.’"
As Mike Florio pointed out over at PFT, "the saddest thing" about Lewis’ response is the fact that he makes no such mention of the two deaths that changed the lives, forever, of two innocent families.
If anything, he deferred the blame in the best way he could think of — by using the "I’m a celebrity and the police were targeting me" excuse.
After Lewis' skated around the question, he then went on to arrogantly insinuate that the grief-stricken families of Baker and Loller don’t know God as well as he does [emphasis mine].
"To the family, if you knew — if you really knew — the way God works, He don’t use people who commits anything like that for His glory," Lewis said. "No way. It’s the total opposite."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't he just say that God wouldn’t have given him his incredible football skills, stacks of cash, trips to the Pro Bowl and two Super Bowl rings if he was a murderer?
Has Ray Lewis ever heard of Joe Paterno?
You know, the winningest coach in college football history? Oh, but some of those wins, however, came at a time in which he stood by and allowed Jerry Sandusky to brutally abuse young boys for what must have seemed like eternity for the victims. Paterno and company tried to cover up the heinous crimes in the name of football, and were successful for many years, but there were just too many victims.
Certainly more than two.
But how did JoePa enjoy so much success while committing such an unspeakable sin, Ray? That's strange.
Throughout the years that Lewis has graced the NFL with his presence on the gridiron, I have been a defender of his right to innocence. The man, as you all know, was never convicted of murder. He's not a murderer, and whether or not he had a hand in the death of two men, is pure speculation.
However, that doesn't mean we should just forget about that night in Atlanta because he was a really, really good football player. The families of Baker and Loller certainly haven't forgotten. They can't forget, though. No amount of money in the world could ever make them forget.
So what could Lewis do?
Does he have information that could give the families some sort of comfort and peace? I firmly believe he does, but he's made no attempt at doing so. Did he offer up phony testimony to save his self and "lose" his white suit in the aftermath of the murders? It sure looks that way. Did he pay for the families silence in the form of two lawsuits, which were settled in 2004? Yes. Was the blood of Baker found in his limousine? Yes.
If I may borrow a few words from Drew Brees, I demand an explanation.
Forget about me, though. What about the families of Baker and Loller? Any information Lewis could provide would certainly be worth much more than any "support money" he was forced to pay to them in 2004. If he’s the great human being and an undisputed man of God that he paints himself to be, why not do the right thing and just...talk?
Until Lewis comes clean, the questions will linger for the rest of his life, as they should. His illustrious career, in many ways, has been tainted. And when his bust is placed in Canton and he’s sitting down for an interview on NFL Network, there will undoubtedly be someone that asks the question that’s on everyone’s mind.
The real question, however, is whether Ray Lewis will ever answer with something more than a mention of God? I don’t think he will.