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On Ray Lewis, Murders, and Media Timidity

January 27, 2013

Stop it.

Don’t get me wrong: Lance Armstrong is also an asshole. Anyone who can look someone in the eyes and coolly declare a no-half-truth-about-it lie warrants such a description. And Armstrong didn’t just deny cheating; he sued those who correctly claimed he did. So yeah, he’s a first-class asshole.

But let’s not forget that, in the end, Armstrong lied about cheating in a sport that is apparently filled with cheaters.* Now compare that with Ray Lewis, who lied about a double murder investigation. Yet when it comes to media portrayal, Armstrong gets vilified while Lewis gets deified.

National media pundits had no trouble skewering Armstrong’s legacy with an unfettered resolve as reports of his performance enhancers came to light. But those same voices scoff at reader suggestions to probe into Lewis’s involvement in the murders of the two Akron boys in Atlanta. I guess it’s taboo to note that lingering, inconvenient cloud; one that became easy to ignore as it gradually faded over the past thirteen years. Much easier to sweep it under the rug than risk it uncomfortably destroying an otherwise inspiring tale.

But now that it is Lewis’s well-documented “final ride” into the playoffs, questions of what legacy he will leave behind have come back to the forefront. And for the media, which has the biggest stage, to ignore such a vital component to understanding his legacy is cowardice.

Now I’m not channeling King Joffrey and calling for Lewis’s head on a stake. I don’t know what happened that night in Atlanta in 2000. I’m just asking for it to be a part of the discussion. I’m also not questioning his football resume, which is stellar, nor his ability to inspire teammates. After listening to one of his interviews on NFL Films, his passion ignited my adrenaline; I felt like I could run through a brick wall.

My point is that when discussing Ray Lewis’ character, the murder trial deserves more than a blind eye.

If you want to argue that off-field issues shouldn’t affect his on-field legacy, that would be a fair point. I understand that steroid or gambling allegations can directly affect a player’s performance, so it’s an obvious topic of conversation when discussing someone’s Hall-of-Fame credentials. But to ignore the persona Ray Lewis has built would be to ignore reality. As great as he has been on the field, his stats compare rather similarly to London Fletcher. But Fletcher doesn’t appear on Madden covers, doesn’t star in commercials with Paul Rudd, and doesn’t enjoy effusive praise from ESPN in part because he is not a celebrity like Lewis. So it is fair discussion to have.

Lewis also makes it a fair discussion through the role he’s built for himself. With every biblical verse and motivational speech, he parades himself as the champion of changed men. And if you watched the AFC Championship game, you probably saw him crying during the National Anthem; at least he did his best to make certain you did.

If all of his changes are legitimate, then that is undoubtedly a good thing. The world is clearly a better place when men change for the better. But—and this is admittedly judgmental—the tears appear too calculated, too staged. And, more importantly, how can one truly be the poster-boy of atonement when he remains silent about a thing like murders and to this day fails to bring closure to two grieving families?

Now, please don’t bring up the “whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty” shtick. For starters, Ray Lewis pled guilty to obstruction of justice for originally lying to police during the investigation. So bringing the murder investigation up in discussing his legacy is not some ignorant attempt to troll Ravens fans; he actually was guilty of an offense related to the murders.

Furthermore, his acquittal of other charges doesn’t fully remove the stench of the trial. Lewis and his friends got in an altercation with the two Akron men and they turned up dead. Lewis’ cream-colored suit he wore that night was never located. Witness statements to investigators did not align with their testimonies in court. Something seems afoul.

Sure, Lewis may have well acted courageously that night as a peacemaker and tried to stop the fight. I don’t know, but that’s not really the point. The fact remains that no one has been charged for the murders of those two young men, and that is in part due to Lewis’ inability to fully cooperate with the investigation.

All while two grieving families in Akron are subjected to coverage by national pundits lauding the linebacker for both his skill and virtue, afraid to broach that pesky, inconvenient cloud.

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* – Also, let’s remember that Lance actually did have cancer and still won seven Tour de Frances against a bunch of other dopers. Considering how I refuse to ride a bike to school because that means I have to ride it up the hill by Little Italy on the way back home, I’m allowed to remain impressed.

And whatever else about his character flaws, he still parlayed that ill-gotten fame into one of the most successful philanthropic movements in memory.

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UPDATE (1/29/13): Reports now coming out that Ray Lewis used Deer Antler spray (a banned substance) to speed up his recovery from his tricep injury. Deer Antler spray. Excuse me while I dust my shoulder off as my Lance Armstrong dichotomy became all the more salient.

Jimmy Haslam III: “Every Dog Has His Day”

November 7, 2012
We’ve obtained (albeit illegally) exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage of new Browns owner, Jimmy Haslam, officially firing both Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur while retaining GM Tom Heckert for next season. While Holmgren’s ousting has since been reported, Haslam wanted to wait until after the season to publicly dismiss Shurmur to keep continuity throughout the 2012 season.

Waiting on Waiters.

October 20, 2012
Let’s just hope that Dion Waiters isn’t big on the importance of first impressions. Since being drafted 4th overall in June, Waiters’ first few months haven’t exactly endeared himself to Cavaliers fans—many of whom felt the Cavaliers should have opted for a more proven NCAA-proven player on draft night such as Harrison Barnes or Thomas Robinson.
Waiters initially got off on the wrong foot with Byron Scott by showing up for the Cavaliers’ Las Vegas Summer League looking like a less-fit Robert “Tractor” Traylor. He showed little offensive firepower trying to play himself into shape, shooting a paltry 30 percent from the field and averaging 12 points a game against playing against other rookies and NBA wannabes.
Waiters hasn’t fared any better in the preseason, either. He got lambasted by Coach Scott in the team’s 97-80 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks for not knowing the plays and was subsequently benched for “lack of focus.”
Through 5 preseason games, Waiters is shooting just 34 percent and has rarely shown the ability to get to the rim, which was his main strength at Syracuse.
With less than two weeks before the start of the season, Waiters needs a reality check.
The NBA has a long season, and the Cavaliers have little chance of making the playoffs regardless of how well Dion Waiters plays. But for a team who is banking their future on the notion that Waiters can be a dominate player, Waiters needs to start preparing and playing like a professional.
The thing is, Waiters has already been through this. Jim Boeheim challenged Waiters’ preparation and hustle after his pedestrian freshman year at Syracuse coming off the bench. After toying with the idea of transferring going into his second year, Waiters rededicated himself by getting into better shape and giving more energy on both ends of the court. The result was that Dion doubled his points per game from 6.6 to 12.6 while also leading the team in steals in just 24 minutes a game. Ultimately, his energy and instant offense off the bench are what vaulted him up draft boards to the Cavaliers at 4.
Now that he’s made it to the league, it’s not exactly a comforting sight to see a player regress both from a physical and performance standpoint within 3 months of getting drafted—the road to NBA obscurity is littered with the bloated carcasses of the motivationally-challenged.
For a 2012 Cavaliers team that is trying establish a new winning identity in the post-LeBron era, it is a pre-LeBron team that should serve as a cautionary tale for Dion Waiters: the infamous Darius Miles, Ricky Davis led teams, who had all the physical talent without the maturity to know how to handle it.

Because those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Two billionaires react to the Browns’ 0-3 start to the season…

September 24, 2012

Jimmy Haslam III:

… and Randy Lerner:

 

 

My Fantasy Football Team Name

September 11, 2012

The Dothraki Wedding Crashers

“A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair.” – Jorah Mormant

In re: Defense of Weeden

September 10, 2012

I’ve heard way too many people channel their inner Henry VIII, calling for Brandon Weeden’s head after his first game.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Weeden’s play was more unsightly than a Lindsay Lohan mugshot. It doesn’t matter that the offensive line played like hot butter. There’s really no excuse for it. And inserting backup QB Colt McCoy very well could have won the game.

In fact, let’s assume, arguendo, that McCoy would indeed have led the Browns to a victory.

I’m still not subbing him in for Weeden. Read more…

I’m officially rooting for Michael Phelps forever.

August 1, 2012

Just because of this:

And this:

Just excellent, excellent GIFs.

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