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Ray Lewis, MMA Champion: The Feel-Good Story That Wouldn’t Be

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 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.

Cagepotato Comments

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John_Craft- February 4, 2013 at 10:20 pm
If you think Dennis`s story is flabbergasting,, three weeks-ago my girlfriend actually earned $5774 sitting there a fourty hour month in their apartment and they're buddy's mother-in-law`s neighbour did this for 8-months and errned over $5774 part-time at their computer. apply the instructions from this site,
coldbeer78- February 3, 2013 at 12:35 am
Anyone see Keenans impersonation of Ray on SNL? Funny shit. As a person who competed in football, basketball, and tennis in high school, I always found the whole religious pep talk stupid. Lets all form a circle and say a prayer like if "god" even if there was one cares about how many touchdowns I scored or how many points I scored... I kept out of that circle and never put my hand in.
Thumblaster- February 2, 2013 at 4:39 am
Aparently race is for some reason a big part of this thread for the record i'm white , I like ray lewis and WAR RAVENS , I do agree ray' s look at me dance, his crying and preaching are annoying but ray does do a lot of mentoring of at risk kids and a shit ton of great things to help his comunity that he does'nt hype. By the way I think most people who hate barry bonds dont hate him because he's black they hate him because he's a fucking asshole.
Thumblaster- February 2, 2013 at 4:26 am
Ray lewis a young millionair with a posse filled with people he didnt know go to the ATL . Shit goes down ,no one knows what the fuck happend. Ultimately the cops conclude ray lewis was not involved with any actual murders but did try and hide some shit so he would'nt be tied to the people who the cops thought did the murders. Ray pled guilty to obsruction of justice and the shady fucks he was with who were charged with murder were aquited. Ray learned to not associate with the thug life that clings to the young famous and rich.
Alan K- February 1, 2013 at 9:22 pm
Was this meant to have something to do with being a full-time fighter and being sober? I'm confused as to what the point of this is.
cman- February 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm
I love the vilification of racism while stating a hatred for athletes with faith.

Someone do explain the difference?!? And actually as an adult and American, I dislike ANYONE who 'got away with it'. I was raised that you face your mistakes like a man, no matter what. And yes, I've been in legal trouble and I did in fact stand up and accept responsibility, at 17, an adult not capable of the same can face my scorn with zero hypocrisy.
cman- February 1, 2013 at 7:47 pm
Wait, Guapo isn't white?!?
El Guapo- February 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm
I agree what he did years ago doesn't have anything to do with the game, but that doesn't mean it never happened.
He won't comment on what happened yet he preaches left and right about how good God has been to him, thanking God for blessing him and how he wouldn't be where he is now(about to play in the big game)without God.
I couldn't care less if Ray Lewis was black or white but I hate the fact that he's hiding behind religion. He claims he found God in the aftermath of his involvement in the murder of two people. WTF is that shit? He's making a mockery of religion. It's insulting to the victims and their families that he mentions God every time he opens his mouth. Dude's a false prophet. That's why I hate Ray Lewis. I ain't white, either. I'm also not a religious person, but I do believe in good and bad.
Sho Nuff- February 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm
I don't care for Ray Lewis much myself, but it's more my general dislike for uber-christian athletes who think god gifts them with their violence. The charge of racism comes from the way it is brought up and the timing. The super bowl approaches, most people are talking about the Niners and the Ravens, but racist white dudes can't let any discussion of the super bowl pass without bringing up Ray Lewis "getting away with murder". Because there is nothing racist white dudes hate more than a black man who "got away with it" in their estimation. It's a football game. What Ray Lewis did or didn't do years ago, outside the game, has nothing to do with the game.
El Guapo- February 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm
Sho Nuff... Question: If a white person hates Ray Lewis then you say they're racist. If a black person hates Ray Lewis what would you label them?
Reason I'm asking is because the family of the guys that Ray & his boys did the headstomp dance on hate Ray Lewis more than the KKK, but I certainly wouldn't call them racist(or Uncle Toms/Cornball Brothas) for feeling that way...
Sho Nuff- February 1, 2013 at 1:58 pm
@ Pen Fifteen, exactly. You get my point. Also, consider the treatment of Gabby Douglas during the Olympics this past summer. Lastly, go 49ers! And WAR someone-or-another.
Pen Fifteen- February 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I think that Sho Nuff's point is that the way Ray Lewis is hung up as the face of evil in the NFL is absolutely a function of his race. The maltreatment MMA gets from the mainstream media in comparison to sports like football pales in comparison to the way black "cheaters" are vilified to an extent that white athletes are not. Take, for example, Tyrann Mathieu making the cover of Sports Illustrated for smoking weed. Did SI bother to run a cover story when Lance Armstrong was outed as perhaps the most systematic cheater in the history of sports? Hell no. Yet a college kid is turned in to the shame of the nation for smoking dope. See also Roger Clemens v. Barry Bonds, etc.

I'm well aware of the consensus attitudes toward race and racism and "playing the race card" on this site. And Ray Lewis probably is a shitty person. But so are the vast majority of people who play in the NFL. That includes a lot of white people.
ArmFarmer- February 1, 2013 at 1:22 pm
I'm also having a bad day and need something to hate on.. and cagepotato rarely fails to deliver in my time of need. Thanks cp.. you're always there for me when I need you ;)
ArmFarmer- February 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm
Yes sho nuff, my hatred for black people runs so deep that I avoid knowing that some of them exist... ??? I don't watch football, this is an mma site, and this article is really really stretching to make ray lewis relevant enough to write about on an mma blog. And it's way, way too long. That is all.
fxdfp- February 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm
Is "Seth Falvo" really Chuck Liddell's pen name?
J.Jones- February 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm
@Sho Nuff - You're right, people probably hated that David Berkowitz fellow so much because he was Jewish. And that's it.
cisco3172- February 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm
Great point Seth. I totally agree with you. I never really put that much thought or even considered the hypothetical transition from NFL to MMA.
Sho Nuff- February 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm
Wow, racist white people really, really hate Ray Lewis.
mma4ever- February 1, 2013 at 12:16 pm
Sobriety must be clouding ur mind.what do u work for fox?mma mutherfucker mma.
El Guapo- February 1, 2013 at 11:56 am
"Ladies and gentlemen of the j-j-j-j-j... JURY! My client is not guilty of murdering anybody, he's merely guilty of d-d-d-d... dancing on their heads. (Plays video of Ray Lewis busting the headstomp dance every week for the last 10 years). Thank you."
Fried Taco- February 1, 2013 at 11:43 am
I didn't read it.
ArmFarmer- February 1, 2013 at 11:37 am
What the fuck is the point of this article... I'm an mma fan not a football fan.. I don't even know who ray lewis is.
Kintamachikara- February 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm
Agreed. Who is Ray Lewis?