|[Times photo: James Borchuck]
So, Ray Lewis is asked, do you have anything to say to the families of the deceased? "Nah," he tells the throng of reporters hoping for some small signs of remorse.
He just doesn't get it
By GARY SHELTON
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 24, 2001
TAMPA -- There are bodies in front of Ray Lewis. He does not seem to notice.
He sits on high, looking out over the heads of those in front of him. He stares ahead, impassive, uncaring. He does not blink. From all indication, he does not feel.
Ray Lewis is on his podium, and the masses are pressed in a semicircle around him. The reporters number in the hundreds. Cameras are in the air. Questions are being shouted at him. Every now and then, he will play with one of the soft ones.
Most of the time, he sits, his chin thrust forward, the diamonds in his ears glinting off the early afternoon sun. His visor is curled around his right eye. Finally, he leans forward to speak.
"Football, football, football," Lewis says.
This is where we came, we members of the media. We flooded through the gates, past other players, and we came to stand in the shadow of Lewis, the noted linebacker and justice obstructor. We wished to hear what he had to say about his trials, the legal one and the lasting one, about fights and families, about violence and victims.
What we got was Ray Lewis, the defiant one. No apologies. No reflection. No sorrow.
Regardless of what Brian Billick, football coach, legal magistrate and media critic-at-large, seems to think, most of us did not show up in front of Lewis' podium to retry the case. We did not show up to attempt to coax a confession, or to force a tear, or to chase an ambulance.
It would have been nice, however, to see a bit of human sorrow.
There was no apology to Lewis. No empathy. No consolation. You could call a person in Minsk, any person, and he would express more sympathy for the two men left dead in the fight outside an Atlanta nightclub than you get from Lewis.
Lewis acts as if this were a natural disaster he has survived, and why are we bringing it up now? This is the Super Bowl. This is his dream. And how dare you treat his comeback story as a tragedy.
"Yeah, I've got money," Lewis said. "Yeah, I'm black. Yeah, I'm blessed. But let's find out the real truth. The real truth is that it was never about those two kids who were dead in the street. It's about Ray Lewis. And that's what this is about. That's not right for nobody.
"Don't get mad at me because I was on center stage. The people to be mad at are (prosecutor) Paul Howard and the mayor of Atlanta. They never cared one time to find out who killed these people. They said, "We're going to get Ray Lewis.' And Ray Lewis was never the guy."
Except for that, Lewis was largely a non-answer. Oh, he would tell you about his four children by two women. He would tell you about having a tattoo of himself branded into his thigh. He would guarantee a victory in the Super Bowl.
But ask him about being tried for a double murder, and that has nothing to do with the Super Bowl.
The thing is, no one asked Lewis what happened in the fight. No one asked what happened in court. People did ask, however, if Lewis had anything to say to the families who had relatives killed.
Lewis looked ahead for a moment. He cocked his head sideways.
"Nah," he said.
Will you pray for the families, he was asked.
"I'll pray for a lot of people," he said.
What is wrong here? Whatever happened to old-fashioned human remorse? What happened to sympathy? Decency?
Why couldn't Lewis have said, "Look, your heart has to go out to these people and their loss. I understand how they feel, and I would like to assure them that I share their sorrow, and I greatly regret any mistakes I might have made."
He didn't say that. From all indications, he doesn't feel that. It might as well be an old ankle injury you are asking him about.
"The only thing I have to handle is Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne," he said. "Everything else is irrelevant."
And so it went. For an hour, Lewis talked. His voice did not crack. He did not sweat. Amazingly, Billick never charged into the fray, calling names, critiquing story angles and scolding the media for daring to ask a question that didn't involve third and 1. Then again, Billick may well have been busy with the Pulitzer committee at the time.
Let's be honest. While none of us really knows what happened that night, there was absolutely zero evidence presented at the trial that implicated Lewis. Howard, the prosecutor, came off as a guy looking harder at headlines than justice. That said, who knows what would have happened had Lewis been forthright to the police that night. Perhaps the trials would have ended with someone being convicted.
I do not pretend to know Lewis. Perhaps, somewhere deep inside, Lewis knows that. Perhaps, when he is alone, he really does feel sympathy for the men who died that night. Perhaps he is haunted by what he might have done to prevent things. Perhaps he realizes that what happened that night wasn't just about him, but about a lot of people.
I am looking ahead for a moment. I am cocking my head sideways.
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