For a star athlete to go out on top is as rare as a grocery store tabloid reporting the whole truth and nothing but the truth. On a dome covered night on Feb. 3, 2013, Ray Lewis, a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer did just that.
Millions around the world witnessed a pure football player play his last game and on the largest athletic stage imaginable—the Super Bowl and on the winning team, the Baltimore Ravens as they defeated the San Francisco 49ers by a three point margin: 34-31.
As the norm and rules dictate the week prior to the Super Bowl is down time to further hype the game and allow the media to stick microphones under the player’s nose and microscopes with a beaming flashlight into every area of their lives, which may or may not have anything to do with the game itself. And in large measures, it normally doesn’t.
In the case of Ray Lewis the spotlight clicked back in time. In 2000, he was involved in a fight that resulted in the death of two men. For Lewis’ testimony against his co-defendants, a charge of murder was dismissed as he received a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice for providing the police a misleading statement in relations to the event.
Far too often people make unwise choices, but in the case of someone famous, theirs quickly becomes a matter of public record which can be replayed, revisited and revived forever in a day.
During what should have been Ray Lewis’ final ride into glory, his past became the story. Yes he won many awards during his spectacular career. Yes he led his team to victory twice in the Super Bowl. Yes he operates a charity, Ray Lewis 52 Foundation. But all of that success isn’t enough to remove the stain of one horrible night and one horrendous mistake in judgment.
In the annals of history his story will always have a footnote and no matter his future accomplishments in life—rightly or wrongly-- time will not erase it.
One thing is certain. If you have paid the slightest bit of attention to Ray Lewis over the years, you’ve clearly witnessed an evolution of strength and character. While he may not be perfect, he has spent the years since that night working diligently to be redeemed. However 13 years later, the court of public opinion is still weighing in with their verdicts.
It is the entirety of life that creates a legacy. As we salute a football warrior as he strides off into the sunset, those of us that truly love the game can appreciate the legacy he left on the field.
Unfortunately what happened off the field still resonates because of his involvement and the fact the murders remain unsolved.
Therefore the final chapter on Ray Lewis will always read, “Great football player, but…”