This is the End
Yesterday, Ray Lewis announced that he will retire from the NFL after the end of the playoffs, ending a 17-year career that has been labeled as one of the greatest ever by many writers. I believe that my reaction to the news accurately reflects those of countless other football fans. I screamed. I felt like my heart broke. I felt like a piece of my childhood was being unceremoniously stripped from my being. I felt like the Mayan apocalypse had actually happened.
For the last 17 years, the words “NFL linebacker” could not be spoken without mentioning Ray Lewis. Lewis played all 17 years with the Baltimore Ravens and was widely considered the heart and soul of the franchise. That said, his retirement means that the identity of his team will be drastically changed, and by no means will it be for the better. Not that it’ll be for the worse either. I’m simply saying that the Baltimore Ravens will never be the same team as they’ve been, thanks to Ray Lewis.
Over the years, Ray Lewis has shaped one of the most illustrious careers in NFL history. To say the least, he is a surefire, first ballot, Hall of Famer. Among his accolades are 13 Pro Bowl Nominations, 2 Defensive Player of the Year awards, a Super Bowl Ring to go with a Super Bowl MVP, and a large amount of fear and respect that accompanies the simple sound of his name. Personally, I have no idea why anybody in their right mind would ever agree to line up at running back opposite Ray Lewis. He has countless numbers of bone-crushing hits to his name, and I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of his next masterpiece.
What sets Ray Lewis apart from other Hall of Famers is not only what he’s done on the field, but also what he’s done off of it. This part of his life, however, begins on a very dark note. Ray Lewis was indicted in the stabbing murders of two people in 2000 following the Super Bowl XXXIV party. He reached a plea deal and a settlement with the families of the deceased. Ever since, Ray Lewis has embraced Christianity, constantly reiterating how everything that happens on Earth happens because God wills it.
Just because Lewis will be gone from the football field, doesn’t mean that he’ll be gone from the public eye in general. Ray Lewis, as of today, is close to reaching a multi-year deal with ESPN to be on their Monday Night Football telecast as an analyst.
At the end of the day, Ray Lewis’ career and life will not be defined by what happened on that night in 2000. Instead, he will be remembered as the dominant and intimidating presence that has led many people to call him the greatest linebacker of all time.