It’s the purported job of the press to ask questions of public figures in the pursuit of getting useful, revealing answers for the public. Typically, when a public figure not only refuses to answer questions but proclaims the press unworthy of doing its job, that’s something the Fourth Estate takes exception with. Not when it comes to Ray Lewis and Yahoo! Sports, it seems. Yesterday, at Super Bowl Media Day, Ray Lewis proclaimed himself above inquiry with regards to the uglier incidents of his past (and perhaps present). A lot of folks bristled at this showing of arrogance, but the columnists at Yahoo! instead saw things to admire.
Mike Silver, usually one of the stronger voices on the NFL, devolved into a fawning fanboy.
Watching him own the moment on Tuesday was a poignant experience, especially when juxtaposing the scene with my memories from that media day 12 years ago. In Tampa, Lewis came off as agitated and tone deaf, at one point suggesting that he was a Christ figure. Questioned about the murder investigation, he spoke his mind unrepentantly, saying, “Yes I got money. Yes, I’m black and yes, I’m blessed. But at the same time, let’s find out the real truth. The real truth is [this] was never about those two kids that’s dead in the street. This is about Ray Lewis.”
Five years before agent Drew Rosenhaus would make the term next question infamous, Lewis tossed it out liberally. Asked if he had anything to say to the families of the murder victims, Lewis said, “Nah.” Pressed for an explanation, he said, “Football, football, football.”
That was then, and this was superior. On Tuesday, Lewis gave a far more humble and introspective answer to the dreaded murder queries.
“Nobody here is really qualified to ask those questions,” he said. “I just truly feel that this is God’s time, and whatever His time is, you know, let it be His will. Don’t try to please everybody with your words, try to make everybody’s story sound right. At this time, I would rather direct my questions in other places. Because I live with that every day. You maybe can take a break from it. I don’t. I live with it every day of my life and I would rather not talk about that today.”
He denied the allegations contained in the SI story on three occasions, saying he had “never” used deer-antler spray and saying the report “was not worthy of the press.”
Indeed. This year’s refusal to answer questions contained more words and references to God. What progress. What a display of emotional growth! It’s totally cool that someone who is the subject of media scrutiny because he might have cheated gets to dictate what the press should and should not pay attention to. I know the first lesson I got in journalism school was “always defer to what Ray Lewis thinks is a story.”
Well, that’s cool. So what is an appropriate question to ask Ray-Ray?
On virtually every other topic, Lewis was open and expansive. He also smiled and looked his inquisitors in the eye, which in a cluster-you-know-what of a setting like Tuesday’s goes a long way.
Wow, on all the softball questions, Ray nailed them like a champ!
Late in the session, I asked Lewis, Did you have a moment where you started feeling sorry for yourself this year – where you were like, ‘I’m hurt. It’s not going to happen.’?
“Absolutely not!” he said, laughing. “I’ve never been the one to feel sorry for myself.”
“HEY RAY LEWIS, YOU MIGHT HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH A MURDER THAT WAS NEVER SOLVED AND MAY ONLY ESCAPE SUSPENSION BECAUSE THE LEAGUE WON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO INVESTIGATE CLAIMS OF CHEATING BEFORE YOUR FINAL GAME. YOU HAD A LENGTHY CAREER THAT WILL RESULT IN BEING INDUCTED INTO HALL OF FAME. EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE A TERRIBLE PERSON, YOU’LL GET TO BE A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SPORT ON TV FOR YEARS TO COME. DID YOU EVER LOOK TO THE HEAVENS AND ASK ‘WHY, GOD, WHYYYYY!!???’ BECAUSE YOU MISSED HALF OF ONE SEASON WITH AN INJURY?”
Silver’s colleague, Dan Wetzel, proffered another column about Lewis at Media Day, the premise of which was “Ray Lewis isn’t going to tell us any more about what happened, so we shouldn’t expect that of him. In fact, we should feel good that he barely acknowledges it.” Bullshit.
The media had one last chance to grill Ray Lewis before he gets to retire and have ESPN call him a hero for the rest of his life. It was bad enough that the broadcast media on hand was littered with friends of Ray Lewis – Warren Sapp, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe and Michael Irvin – who were all too ready to slap down any mention of wrongdoing by Lewis on the air, the print media was almost just as obedient without the excuse of conflict of interest.
Some reporters actually bothered to do their job. The Ray Lewis mythmaking brigade, on the other hand, tried to portray him as a martyr because of it.