Arrogant. Narcissistic. Self-serving. Fantastical.
Those are the first adjectives that come to mind after reading this autobiography of Ray Lewis.
Before launching into a fuller review of this autobiography let me say that in my football viewing lifetime Ray Lewis is one of the three best linebackers I’ve ever seen behind only Lawrence Taylor and Mike Singletary. He is one of the rare defensive players who could literally take over a game single-handedly and was the driving force behind one of the best defensive teams of all time, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. He is the two-time winner of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, and the rare defensive player being named the Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl XXXV. He will certainly be a first ballot NFL Hall of Famer when he is eligible.
The first part of the book details how Ray Lewis grew up very poor with numerous siblings from different fathers. One really unusual story is how Ray Lewis got his name. Lewis was not the last name of his father but another man who agreed to let his mother use his name on his birth certificate as the father. And after that is appears his mother went from one bad man to another. Lewis details how he was abused by some of these men as a child and how he lived in the shadow of his real father who was a local sports star gone bad. The lack of a father figure and abuse from other men as a kid certainly appears to have had a negative impact on Lewis.
Lewis provides an account of his life growing up poor and often abused with sports being his outlet which kept him on a relatively even path to college and becoming a star at the University of Miami in its football heydays. It’s interesting that he spends relatively few pages detailing his time at Miami but a few interesting items emerge. First his overweening arrogance and disrespect for Coach Butch Davis comes roaring through. Given his attitude that the team was “his” I am a little surprised that he eventually showed the kind of leadership he did in the NFL.
The other very interesting story I learned is the origins of his decade long rivalry with Eddie George which had its beginnings in an almost violent confrontation they had a party while in college and George was at Ohio State. I always wondered where their animosity in the pros came from.
Once Lewis gets to the NFL is where things start really getting bizarre. Let’s jump right to the infamous night in Atlanta where two men were knifed to death in an incident Ray Lewis was involved in. The entire chapter devoted to this is mostly an attempt to whitewash the entire affair and not everything that Lewis said necessarily adds up to what was reported in the court.
Lewis’s story is he was partying with an entourage dressed in a white suit. He maintains that he didn’t even know everybody rolling with this party as there were several hangers on he didn’t know. Leaving the club they were confronted by some hoodlums who threatened Lewis with violence and hit his friend over the head with a bottle. Thus, the profusely bleeding head wound that bloodied Lewis’s white suit. Lewis claims he was trying to protect people in his car as they sped off to gunshots being fired. Later he found out two people were stabbed to death in the altercation and eventually was questioned by police.
His account of the event makes some sense, but really doesn’t answer a key question: What happened to the bloody white suit the police were looking for? Well, we still don’t know. If innocent, why have it disposed of, which is clearly what happened.
Some of Lewis’s account does make sense. Rich athletes, especially ones wearing flashy white suits are often targets of verbal or physical violence, or at least provocation. That there were several hangers on that Lewis didn’t even know also makes sense. Of course groupies and others are going to gravitate to Lewis’s group if he lets them in.
What is baffling is what happened to the white suit? Why hide it? Why obfuscate the investigation, which clearly happened? Why so defensive when the police originally show up, which Lewis admits to.
Then things get even more bizarre. To sum it up, Ray Lewis claimed the police and prosecutors where out to get him and that is how he wound up pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and he claims the entire reason he was charged with obstruction is because he couldn’t name all the people in his car. Where they out to get him? Maybe, who knows?
Then it gets even more bizarre. Lewis claim the Atlanta police physically abused him while he was in jail, and goes into great detail about it, at one point saying “I was crucified, man”. This I find hard to believe because if true, someone of Ray Lewis’s stature would be suing the Atlanta police for this. And the police would be stupid to abuse someone of his stature for fear of it getting publicity. Well, I take that last part back, some police are stupid.
But, it gets even better!! God started talking to Ray Lewis in his jail cell. And that what was happening to him would make him stronger.
Do I believe Ray Lewis murdered anyone? No, having followed the case the prosecutors were incompetent and had little evidence against Ray Lewis other than he was at some point at the scene. In fact, they were so incompetent nobody has been convicted of the crime to this day. I do wonder where the bloody white suit is though. And Ray Lewis’s behavior was certainly suspect after the event. And I don’t think the two murdered men where choir boys. I know nothing about them though, but the whole event does make it look like Ray Lewis was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with people targeting him because he is rich and famous.
Finally, the rest of the very strange saga of Ray Lewis. As most people know he suffered a significant injury in his last season with the Ravens that would have ended most players’ season. The Ravens put him on Injured Reserve designated to return (the first year this rule was in place). Ray Lewis did indeed return, not fully recovered from a torn triceps. He likened it to a miracle. And it kind of was.
But the real miracle was how Lewis essentially implies he is the reason the Ravens won the Super Bowl and again heard the voice of God during the game in which she or he said “trust Jacoby Jones” and Ray put his hand on Jones’ chest. Jones went on to return the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown. GIVE ME A BREAK!
In summary this book is all, I, I, I. Teammates are rarely mentioned in the success of the Ravens, it was all Ray, all the time.
It is a little bit hard to even describe how self-serving and delusional this autobiography is.
I don’t recommend reading it, unless you like fantasy stories.
I Feel Like Going On: Life, Game, and Glory