The deer antler velvet spray does it. You’ve officially lost us.
It’s not that we don’t like the way you play linebacker. It’s not that we don’t admire the way you inspire a team, or how you’ve kept at it through challenges. It’s not that we don’t think there’s some innocence in that heart, and some sheer passion that is still laudable no matter what dirty rumors follow your name.
What the heck is deer antler velvet spray? Why would you use it? Why are you denying that you are using it?
It’s not just strange, Ray Lewis. It’s not just another one of those weird things that you do. This is too close to the other parts of you that we’ve chosen to look past. This could mean something more.
Without your troubles from 2000, or your repeated references to God lifting you up, maybe this wouldn’t strike us as so odd. But it is odd, and now we have to ask the questions, just as we’ve listened to what you’ve had to say.
Why is it, so soon after Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o reinforced pretty well that repeated lying and deception do not pay off in the end, that you appear ready to also traverse this road?
You want to do Bible verses, Ray Lewis? Let’s do Bible verses.
These are the easy ones: Your sin will find you out. Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth. Abstain from all appearance of evil. In quietness and confidence is your strength. (Numbers 32:23; Ephesians 4:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:22; Isaiah 30:15.)
We want to believe you, Ray Lewis. We want to ride that passion and find a way to have the same gusto for life. We want to stomp into our workplaces and relationships with the same dances and bravado you provide each week.
But this is enough. We’re over the top. It’s too big. It’s not about you anymore — and it doesn’t seem real. Whatever you’re building here has started to feel dangerously wrong.
What happens if this deer antler velvet spray thing is true? What happens if even one more trusting fan finds out that the allegations from those connected to the 2000 murder case are still readily disputed? What happens when a world built on hyperbole and pomp fails to provide the true inspiration that people really need?
Here’s the problem, Ray Lewis. Every time you use a Bible verse to support your life path and your success, you associate everything in the Bible, and those who truly follow the Bible, with your troubled testimony. Every time you tell people that they, too, can reach such heights, you step over those who have worked just as hard through just as rough of circumstances but have never seen it work out. Every time you insist you are the perfect hero, all the reasons you are not the perfect hero become hard to swallow.
If you are following a path of redemption from a troubled past to a glorious future, why do the accusations keep coming? Redemption involves repentance, which is a turning from a former life to a new one. New wrongs cannot be explained away by saying everyone messed up, not when you’re on your second chance. The point of the second chance is that you won’t make those mistakes again. Go and sin no more, or humbly admit that work still needs to be done.
So maybe you didn’t use deer antler velvet spray. But what if you did? Why would you? Aren’t the repercussions of doing something like that to rush back to the field and play your way to the Super Bowl much worse than if you had done the right thing and had to sit out? What are you teaching people — that the ends justify the means? That doing wrong is OK if the Lombardi Trophy waits at the end?
The story doesn’t add up, Ray Lewis, and the amount of fervor you’ve put behind being the most passionate, the most inspirational, the most reputable, the most redeemed, the most revered and the most watchable is tiring. We want authentic people who can show us how good can be done in an imperfect world, not people who blow past barriers in such ridiculous ways that we wonder whether the smoke machine is there more to hide things than to just add to the hype.
We want to root for you, Ray Lewis. We want to support you. We want to believe.
We cry passionately sometimes, like you, and we credit God for His blessing in life. But some of us know we dare not create a magical story and put God’s name on it, when the unraveling of that magical story would do far more harm than good. God exalts the humble, and He raises the faithful. We don’t need to help Him in any way.
You may be right, Ray Lewis. Your story may be one of the best ever. But remember that Armstrong’s was incredible, and Te’o's, too. And remember that we never asked you to be so far beyond what was believable, and so good at rising above and playing on that none of us could touch you.
We love to watch you play, Ray Lewis. We love your passion, and what you mean to sports and life. But be careful, Ray Lewis. The truth is always enough.