A little over ten years ago, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis had just finished the fight of his life, with the victory meaning independence of the ultimate degree. Freedom is the result of what we all reflect upon when July 4th rolls around each year. The ultimate sacrifices made over the years to further what happened in this country in 1776, as it declared independence.
Ray Lewis was charged with murder based on a terrible incident the night before Super Bowl 34 in January 2000. Two men lost their lives during a brawl outside a nightclub that Lewis was partying with friends in. Specifically what happened continues to be debated, but in the end, Lewis was the only one who pleaded guilty of a crime and that ended up being obstruction of justice. He paid a league-imposed $250,000 fine and was on probation for a year, but the biggest penalty he paid was the loss of respect from fans all over the country and in some cases, in Baltimore as well.
Lewis was abandoned by some of his endorsement deals. He was yelled out in public, especially in visiting football stadiums. Chants of"murderer!" followed him whenever he stepped out onto gridiron outside of Baltimore. Many fans in this city felt that they could not look up to him as a role model and didn't want their children admiring him anymore. This hurt Ray more than any fine could ever do.
At the same time, all the negative press surrounding this incident and his reputation only served to motivate the man who will go down as the greatest player in Baltimore Ravens history and perhaps the greatest linebacker in the National Football League. Certainly, no one endured playing at such a high level for his entire career at such a physically demanding position.
Ray's next season culminated in hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as not only the Super Bowl Champion, but the MVP as well. Everything he went through the previous summer gave him the strength to stand up before his teammates at the beginning of the 2000 season and tell them he was there, as a free man, for a reason. His goal was to win Super Bowl 35, and he wanted to know who in that room that day, was going with him on that journey. The rest was history and now it is ten years later and once again, the goal is the same.
The Ravens might not have been back to the big game since then, but for the most part, they have always been competitive and their defense, led by Lewis who is entering his 15th season in the NFL, has ranked among the best year in and year out. As the July 4th weekend winds down and Training Camp opens at the end of this month, the Ravens are being talked about as one of the favorites to get to Dallas for the Super Bowl next February. It's only fitting that Ray Lewis will be doing his dance out of the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium, sending the fans and the rest of the team into a frenzy. In my humble opinion, Ray Lewis has fought and won his freedom and the right to strut his independence whenever and wherever he wants.