February 6, 2013

Super Bowl Column: Ray Lewis’ talent trumps personal issues

By Nick Zelano–

When it comes to the NFL playoffs and especially the Super Bowl, no stage is bigger in sports. When it comes to media day on Super Bowl week, there is literally nothing that compares across the board of the wide world of sports. Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens were all set to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Feb. 3rd at 6:30p.m. and arrived in New Orleans to begin practice last Sunday. This is as normal as can be when it comes to Super Bowl week, and teams were arriving with the one focus and the one task at hand — to win the championship and have their team go down in history as champs.

This week had a different feel to it, though. Along with all of the questions and talk about the Harbaugh brothers, Jim and John, facing each other in the biggest game in sports,  there’s also been talk about how a quarterback who has only started nine games for the 49ers has made it to the playoffs. In both cases, these storylines are valid and interesting. However, they are going up against one of the biggest stories of the entire year in all of sports, the retirement of Ravens future Hall-of-Fame linebacker, Ray Lewis.

Some fans may be tired of hearing about his retirement and his last game, but the reality of the situation is that it is a very big deal. Ray Lewis transformed the linebacker position into what it is today with his athletic build, preparation and skillful play. He is simply one of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game, and his retirement deserves to be celebrated because he was such a tremendous player to have watched throughout the last 17 seasons. At 37, and with repaired triceps from an injury that took place earlier in the season, he is still dominating the postseason with a team high of 44 tackles. With a shocking win in Denver during the Divisional Championship round of the playoffs, and then a dominating performance of the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, Lewis has led the Baltimore Ravens team out of their shell and back into the light.

Of course with the popularity of the Super Bowl and the craziness of media day, it’s hard not to recall Ray Lewis’s past life troubles. He has been acquitted of murder and charged with obstruction of justice; he has had four wives and children spread amongst those wives. However, these personal struggles that Lewis has had to deal with over his life have made him the person he is today. He has learned from his mistakes and moved on using his family, religion and leadership qualities to be a great spokesman and ambassador for the NFL. On numerous occasions, Ray Lewis has reached out to help and guide troubled young football players towards a brighter future.

Whether or not audiences respect Ray Lewis as a person, it’s time to take a step back and realize just how significant it has been to watch Lewis play throughout the years, and for the last time on Super Bowl Sunday.

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Photo courtesy of usatoday.com

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