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Would Ray Lewis Please Exit, Stage Right?


If you’ve ever seen a talent show from the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, you know that at some point when an act has stayed long past its welcome, a fellow named Sandman would emerge, with a hook to usher the offending performer off the stage.

The original Sandman has gone on to his eternal rest, but we sure could use him, or a reasonable facsimile to assist Ray Lewis out of our consciousness.

Like the last straggler at a party who hangs in long after the booze and food have run out, Lewis refuses to have the good grace to go away and leave us alone.

Saturday night’s droning 33-minute long Ted talk that masqueraded as an acceptance speech for his enshrinement to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was just the most recent example of Lewis’ unceasing journey into narcissism.

You gotta have a pretty solid opinion of yourself to equate that squirrel dance Lewis does to a tribute to the trinity.

Yet, Lewis did just that Saturday night and without a trace of irony or a nod to the notion of self-deprecation.

Ray Lewis talks.

A lot.

Some of what he says, like self-reliance and self-improvement, make sense. But much of it, like the supposition that crime in Baltimore declined while he was playing, is jaw-droppingly amazing.

Lewis spent a lot of time in his speech talking about truth, especially the truth that he delivers to his children and the rest of his family.

That’s interesting, because there are two families from Akron, Ohio, a few miles away from Canton, where Lewis was enshrined, who are waiting for truth from Lewis about his involvement in the deaths of their loved ones 18 years ago.

In case you’ve forgotten, two men, Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker, were killed in a fight on the street following Super Bowl 34 in Atlanta.

Lewis sped away from the scene with two men who were later charged with murder. They were found not guilty in a jury trial.

Lewis was originally also charged with murder, but those charges were dropped and he pled guilty to obstruction of justice.

He received probation from the courts and a 250-thousand dollar fine from the NFL for conduct detrimental to the league.

Lewis has had countless opportunities to fully explain his involvement in the incident, but, for the last 18 years, he has danced away from that explanation almost as artfully as that tribute to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As I’ve said more than once, I personally don’t believe Ray Lewis killed Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker. But I will always believe that he knows who did and he knows how it happened.

Sadly, because Ray Lewis, the football player is among the handful of the greatest to ever play the game, Ray Lewis the man has been able to skate through nearly 20 years without a reckoning by an occasionally fawning press, a compliant Ravens front office and a fan base so starved for a hero that it wholly embraced his shtick.

We can wish for Ray Lewis to slink away, but, like the song from another Apollo legend, James Brown, he’ll likely continue talking loud and saying nothing.

And that's how I see it for this week. 

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.