Lance Armstrong had Oprah. Manti Te'o had Katie Couric. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has Dr. Phil this week. To whom will Ray Lewis choose to tell his story?
Lewis, the fiery, bible-spouting, family-values, break-dancing linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, is the team's focal point at this Sunday's Super Bowl. Lewis is going to retire after the game. His outsized personality will be captured by reporters at today's media day. His entry dance at the stadium on Sunday will be stedicam'd and lovingly framed. He'll be extolled as a leader. A man redeemed.
Redeemed from what, you might ask? Well, Lewis still carries the taint of the murder of two men, Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker, at the Super Bowl in Atlanta 13 years ago. By his own admission Lewis was there the night the men were knifed to death. He and his friends fled the scene of the murder in a limo that contained the blood of the victims.
He "lost" vital evidence. But his memory failed him in helping cops solve the murders.
So he and his friends beat the rap. Lewis has never levelled about what he knows of that night. While Armstrong, Te'o and Tuiasosopo finally embraced candour in the past two weeks, Lewis shows no sign of coming clean about the murders as he basks in Super Bowl splendour.
Maybe the adulation of the American media is too good to surrender just yet. Maybe he believes his religious conversion has him good with the Big Man. Perhaps he thinks that, because the media no longer ask, the public has forgotten.
As Tim Graham of the Buffalo News wrote, the families of Baker and Lollar have not forgotten. Every day the unpunished crime gnaws at them.
How can Lewis purport to be living a righteous life if he doesn't make things right on their deaths? How can the mainstream media, many of whom who whiffed on the Armstrong and Te'o stories, call itself relevant if it deifies Lewis by not holding him to account this week?
Should be fun at media day.
Tossing out the pigskin
The NFL will get over Ray Lewis' perp walk into perpetuity. But a far bigger threat to the league surfaced when U.S. President Barack Obama expressed doubts that any son of his (he has none) would play football. Too dangerous, said the Arugula Man, who is partial to basketball. (His brother-in-law coaches Oregon State's hoops team.) Well, it does take a lot out of the human body.
Just ask the fiancée of Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler. She told reporters that she is going to prevail on Mr. Sulk to not have their five-month-old son Camden play the game that puts money on the family table. "I will try to steer Cam in a different direction, maybe a sport that isn't so aggressive," Cavallari told DNAinfo.com Chicago . "Maybe baseball – something where he doesn't have to get hit."
Not everyone agrees with taking the rough edges off football. Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard, who regularly targets the craniums of opponents, thinks the NFL is going to destroy itself with all this empathy. "Thirty years from now, I don't think it will be in existence, " Pollard told CBSSports.com. "I could be wrong. It's just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going – where [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they're throwing flags and everything else – there's going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it."
The dichotomy of opinion highlights the tight rope being walked by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as he tries to keep both the President and Pollard onside. Oh, a poll came out Monday saying Goodell has a 39 per cent approval rating from the players of the league. Enjoy the game, Rog.
No Te'o for Costas
If you want to know how the mainstream media got led by the nose on the Manti Te'o story just watch this interview of Bob Costas by Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post and CNN. Costas sniffs that the duping of the nation is a "tabloid story".
"I would have been at best ambivalent and maybe leery of doing the interview, because it seems to me like a tabloid story," Costas told Kurtz. Yeah, we all hate that tabloid stuff in capital-J journalism.
When Kurtz gives credit to the often profane website Deadspin for breaking the story networks swallowed whole, Costas suggests that, on balance, Deadspin isn't worthy of licking the soles of his shoes and that the internet has cheapened empathy in the society. He adds that he had absolutely no connection to the story.
Kurtz, however, calls the Te'o hoax for what it was, an exposure of negligent reporting standards by the most powerful outlets such as ESPN, CBS and Sports Illustrated. Or, as Costas finally admits, "It was a feel-good story and they didn't look beneath the surface, and so they did get duped."
Sign of the apocalypse, Pt. 2,178. The Pro Bowl is just about the least credible sporting event imaginable. But Sunday's one-sided Pro Bowl on the NFL Network got a 3.3 adults rating and 9.9 million viewers. The 60 Minutes interview with President Barack Obama and secretary of state Hilary Clinton drew a 1.7 rating with a 5 share. Of course, you couldn't take the president and give the points against Steve Kroft.
Three blind mice
Finally, some things could only happen in hockey. Like the coach who dons sunglasses and a hockey stick to do his blind man's routine. Maybe we have the guy to replace Don Cherry, after all.