Via Sobriety Fighter
For those uninitiated, Sobriety Fighter is my own side-project. I’ve dedicated 2013 to being a year-long experiment where I spend one year as a full-time fighter while also attempting to stay clean and sober. I can’t promise that I’ll be the next Elias Cepeda or that I’ll never relapse, but I can promise that I’ll do my absolute best for everyone. Most of the stuff I post isn’t particularly MMA-related, but this is. Enjoy. - [SethFalvo]
“Pride!…Heart!…Poise!…And toughness,” the stereotypically fat high school football coach barks at his disturbingly old squad [Author Note: How is it even possible to coach athletes so dumb that they’re all blatantly in their twenties, yet still in high school?] in one especially cringe-worthy Under Armor commercial. “Are these just words *dramatic pause* or is that who you are?” I had a pretty decent GPA in graduate school, yet I still have no idea what the tap-dancing Christ that’s supposed to mean.
Sports commentary can be such a prepackaged mess of machismo clichés and feel-good stories that it’s easy to become detached from it. It’s bad enough when the rhetoric is generic enough to immediately trigger an eye-roll, and it’s amplified when the tough-talk makes absolutely no sense once you actually examine what’s being said – like in the above Under Armor commercial.
With only two days separating us from Super Bowl XLVII, the media has been using Ray Lewis as a one-stop shop for all of the tough talk and feel-good bullshit you’re completely numb to. Ray Lewis! He has such passion for the game! Ray Lewis! He’s a God-fearing Hall of Fame caliber linebacker! Ray Lewis! He’s in-your-face, never-say-die, gritty, click-clack, shows a lot of heart, gives it his all and literally any other cliché you can cram into this sentence! Ray Lewis! He just loves football so much that when he retires after this game, sons and fathers will stand united while he does so…as a Super Bowl Champion!
The fact that the “Ray Lewis retired on top” story has already been written, even though the game has yet to be played, is gag-worthy by itself. But don’t worry, it gets worse: In terms of pure bullshit, masquerading Ray Lewis as feel-good drivel is right up there with the most recent feel-good story surrounding a famous, talented linebacker. Ray Lewis is a guy who either got away with murder or snitched on his friends (depending on what you believe the real story is), used a banned substance that the NFL doesn’t test for during his career, and did it all while maintaining the shit-eating piousness he’s known for. The legacies of star athletes are built around feel-good folk tales, regardless of how far the truth has to be stretched in order to fit the mold.
Keep all that in mind while watching “the passion Lewis has for the game of football” escape him in this interview:
Holy shit does this interview have dark undertones. But most of his comments sound tough, yet mindless enough to make for a decent sound bite, so everyone turned their backs on the elephant in the room. As a fight fan, I can’t help but wonder if we’d still turn a blind eye towards Ray Lewis’ past if he didn’t play football, but rather, was an MMA fighter with similar credentials.
Let’s pretend that Ray Lewis turned to MMA back in the mid-nineties. He is now a former heavyweight champion – and sure-fire UFC Hall of Famer – known for exciting fights and brutal finishes, attempting to retire after one last shot at the belt. Basically, he’s Jon Jones in ten years, only infinitely shadier and more charismatic. Would Ray Lewis’ story still be that of the passionate warrior looking to go out on top, or that of a tormented psychopath legally satisfying his bloodlust one final time?
The answer is almost assuredly the latter. While it’s a stretch to compare a murder case surrounding any MMA fighter to the Ray Lewis case – either due to the obvious guilt of the fighter involved, the total lack of name recognition for the fighter, or a combination of the two – our sport’s most mainstream athlete also had a questionable court case in his past. Former UFC champion Brock Lesnar was arrested back in 2001 for allegedly possessing a “large amount of steroids,” and although his lawyer’s claim that Lesnar possessed a “vitamin type of thing” sounds too stupid to be true, lab tests eventually cleared him.
No one is trying to compare buying drugs to killing a guy, but rather, the fact that both men were found innocent of crimes that many people feel they’ve committed. Yet despite the innocent until proven guilty stance that mainstream media outlets have taken in regards to Ray Lewis, Brock Lesnar has not enjoyed the same treatment. When E:60 aired a segment on Brock Lesnar before his fight against Randy Couture, they accused him of juicing with the subtlety of an elephant with a hard on. “You’re just so big, and you come out of the world of pro wrestling…” the interviewer spat out before Lesnar stormed off the set. It’s the classic “I’m not saying I’m just saying” question that passive-aggressive types love to ask. Or who knows, maybe the interviewer wouldn’t have even bothered trying to make that a question.
Meanwhile, an ESPN.com article about the IGF-1 that Ray Lewis has been accused of taking originally said that a league source told them ”Ray has been randomly tested multiple times for that substance,” until it was proven that, hey, that’s not even remotely true.
It’s strange that MMA is mainstream enough for most people to recognize what the sport is and name a few of its athletes, yet still obscure enough for the sport to have to put up with the double-standards that other minority groups put up with. When Ray Lewis gets flagged for roughing the passer, it’s just because he’s “too excited” from all that love of the game in his system. When Anthony Pettis jumps off of the cage, redefining what we felt was possible to pull off in a fight, the PTI guys just can’t understand how anyone would want to watch a guy get kicked in the face.
If I had to make a prediction as to exactly how the media would cover Ray Lewis, MMA champion, I’d say that Bellator’s War Machine promo would be a pretty accurate measuring stick. Tack on a few shots of the murder victim’s crying mother and some empty bottles of deer antler spray dramatically falling to the ground in slow motion, and Ray Lewis, blood-thirsty steroid taking murderer is ready to shock and awe sports fans across the globe with his human cockfighting skills.
After writing this, part of me wishes that Ray Lewis actually did become an MMA fighter. It’s all but impossible that he’d have the same success in MMA as he enjoyed in the NFL, but at least then we wouldn’t be wasting so much time attempting to turn him into a feel-good story about whatever Gatorade commercial cliché you want to spit out today retiring on top. Also, we could hear more about this Colin Kaepernick guy leading up to the Super Bowl. He’s a mobile quarterback in the NFL who is single-handedly changing the way that the game is played? Now there’s a story that doesn’t come along every year.