ENID, Okla. —
There are a lot of compelling stories surrounding this year’s Super Bowl.
There’s the venue, for one thing. This is the first visit to New Orleans for the week-long circus that is the Super Bowl since the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The Big Easy is ready to celebrate what is being called “Super Gras,” with the Super Bowl coming right in the middle of carnival season, which began Jan. 25 and concludes Feb. 12 on Mardi Gras Day.
New Orleans is eager to show just how far it has come since the dark days of post-Katrina, welcoming an estimated 1 million visitors, 5,000 media members, 100 million worldwide TV viewers and nearly $1 billion in revenue over the next couple of weeks.
There are the brothers Harbaugh, of course, head coaches Jim of San Francisco and John of Baltimore. The over-under on the number of times the men’s baby pictures will be shown and their parents interviewed on TV this week is 100.
There’s Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who starred at Nevada, but who was stuck on the 49ers’ bench until starter Alex Smith was injured in mid-season. Now in addition to an impressive set of tattoos on his arms he also seems to have an “S” on his chest as he has led the Niners to their first Super Bowl since 1995.
Then there is linebacker Ray Lewis, the MVP the last time the Ravens played in the Super Bowl, who will be playing the final game of his career Sunday.
Lewis is the heart and soul of the Ravens, their inspirational leader, playing hurt with a surgically repaired triceps, but still wreaking havoc on opposing offenses at the advanced age of 37.
And besides being a team leader, Lewis is a community leader as well. A devout Christian, Lewis has helped disadvantaged youths in Baltimore through his Ray Lewis 52 Foundation.
Lewis’ story would be downright heartwarming if it wasn’t for the night of Jan. 31, 2000. After a Super Bowl party in Atlanta that night, Lewis and some friends got into a fight with another group, during which two people, Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, were stabbed to death.
Lewis and two of his buddies were indicted on charges or murder and aggravated assault. Lewis’ lawyers negotiated a plea deal for their client, in which the murder charges were dropped in exchange for his testimony against his friends, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, and a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. Lewis admitted to lying to police the day after the murders.
Oakley and Sweeting were later acquitted of the charges, on the grounds of self-defense, and Lewis was placed on a year’s probation and fined $250,000 by the NFL. Lewis subsequently reached settlements with the Lollar and Baker families.
Lewis said he stayed out of the fatal fray, but did nothing to stop it and reportedly ordered his pals back into their limo, which then sped away, leaving Lollar and Baker bleeding in the street.
To be sure, people change, they learn, they grow, they mature over time. And thus is doubtless the case with Ray Lewis.
But there are too many unanswered questions surrounding that night in 2000 to allow me to root for Ray Lewis to ride off into pro football’s sunset with another Lombardi Trophy held high overhead.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.