BY Art Thiel 04:49PM 02/01/2013

Thiel: Go 49ers; no more Ray Lewis, please

Baltimore’s Ray Lewis is a tremendous football player, but let’s hear it for San Francisco 49ers in their attempt to shut him up at the Super Bowl Sunday.

Too bad Ray Lewis doesn’t make sense the way he makes tackles. / Wiki Commons

Baltimore’s Ray Lewis has been a superb NFL player for 17 seasons. I wish he would take a lesson from the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch and just shut the hell up.

Since he won’t  . . . go, 49ers.

As with most national holidays, the Super Bowl mandates some sort of worship – God, Santa, flag, ground hog, flightless bird. So I will kneel Sunday before the Evil Harbaugh Brother and beseech whoever’s in charge of football outcomes that Lewis’s grill gets so filled with, say, 49ers running back Frank Gore, that he is unable to speak in post-game interviews to blame God for the loss (which he would feel obligated to do, since it is God who, according to Lewis, is ushering the Ravens to the sporting pinnacle Sunday).

Lynch, as Seahawks fans have come to learn, is an intriguing dude, but one who prefers to avoid interviews.  In the few, brief conversations I’ve had with him, he says things in such an amusingly oblique way that I’m never sure if he is laughing with or at me, or the world, or no one. While that should be annoying to me as a reporter, somehow it has become endearing.

Lynch is the perambulating epitome of the advice handed down in the Book of First Crustiness in the St. (Chuck) Knox version of the Bible: “Let your actions speaketh so well that I have no needeth of your words.”

Lewis, however, is the opposite, and therefore annoying.  He can blather and bloviate on most any subject, regularly choosing the third person as his demolition derby vehicle, and takes his oral dreck over a cliff where no one even saw an edge.

Besides the inexplicable oratory, many fans haven’t forgotten his involvement in a January 2000 fight in Atlanta in which he and two friends faced murder charges in the stabbing deaths of two men.  The friends were acquitted and Lewis maintained his innocence,  copping to a plea of a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. But the NFL fined him $250,000. He later paid $300,000 to settle a civil case brought by the victims’ families.

Lewis has had no further legal trouble. But his ability to make little or no sense has continued unabated. Whatever shred of cred he had evaporated for me in May 2011, during the NFL’s lockout of the players, when he said that the threatened absence of the NFL’s regular season would cause crime to soar across America.

“Do the research if we don’t have a season – watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch crime pick up if you take away our game,” he told ESPN in an interview. “There’s too many people that live through us. Yeah, walk in the streets, the way I walk the street, and I’m not talking about the people you see all the time.”

Asked to explain how crime would increase, he said, “There’s nothing else to do.”

Entire doctoral dissertations can be written on the parallel universe that Lewis described, but I’ll keep it brief by saying the amount of methane released by that statement was solely responsible for warming global temperatures by two degrees that summer.

This week Lewis’s cartoonish demeanor was drawn even more absurdly when a Sports Illustrated story claimed that Lewis and other athletes used a drug identified as deer antler velvet spray (just when I think I’ve written everything in this business, I write “deer antler velvet spray”) to help heal injuries. What this substance is, and whether it helps or hurts, whether it is banned or not banned, was not made very clear. But on day 2 in the media frenzy in New Orleans, Lewis’s initial refusal to talk about the allegation (which is like expecting low tide to stay put), morphed into this bewilderment from Lewis Wednesday:

“I think, honestly, and I’m going to say this very clearly again, I think it’s one of the most embarrassing things that we can do on this type of stage. I think it takes totally away from – you give somebody the ability to come into our world. Our world is a very secret society, and we try to protect our world as much as we can. But when you let cowards come in and do things like that, to try to disturb something – I’ve said it before, I’ve said it a million times – the reason why I’m smiling because it’s so funny, the story. Because I’ve never, ever took what he says — whatever I was supposed to do.”

Lewis has inadvertently created a challenge contest for the nation’s legion of underemployed English majors – parsing a Lewis quote for a direct line between two thoughts. Winner gets asylum in Brazil, where he/she can never be forced to return to the U.S. again and encounter a Lewis broadcast.

Yes, broadcast. Following his announcement last month that this season was his last, it was disclosed that Lewis’s agent was negotiating a contract to work ESPN’s football shows next season. Not since Bluto in “Animal House” asked, “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” has the nation’s intellectual treasury faced a greater internal threat than paying Ray Lewis to be in charge of a microphone.

Here was Lewis’s summary of the deer antler velvet story: “That’s the trick of the devil. The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That’s what he comes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you’re trying to do.”

If Lewis is right about the devil and deer antlers, I ache for those long-ago days when our biggest sports concerns were a football player’s fake dead girlfriend who was a guy.

Lewis and the Ravens already won a Super Bowl after the 2000 season when they beat the New York Giants, 34-7, and Lewis was named MVP.  That is sufficient.  Adding “two-time Super Bowl champ” to his resume would simply encourage Lewis and ESPN to perpetrate this crime against English and logic.

Please, San Francisco 49ers, I urge you to take a stand. And Ray Lewis, please listen to Marshawn Lynch when he says nothing. There is virtue in mystery.


  • Tim Mchugh

    I’m not gonna watch the game because I simply can’t–it’s too painful. However, your column in a weird way sort of helps me feel less bad if the Niners win. I can’t stand Harbaugh or Lewis and figured the only bittersweet victory to be taken is that at least one asshole is going to be left in agony. Now you’re helping me lean toward the red and gold as I can’t and never could stand Lewis and his mindless exhortations. Thanks Art. Maybe having a Super Bowl winner in our division won’t be such a bad thing. I’ll probably tune in on the radio, but come Monday morning, it’s all about next year and the upcoming Hawks run to the promised land!

    • art thiel

      I did a video commentary for that addresses your point. I agree that in 2013 beating SF as defending SB champion will be a worthy target providing an edge.

  • SeattleNative57

    And what is the thinking behind ESPNs decision to employ Lewis after football? Not only does he speak in duplicate, his speech is so slurred he’s impossible to understand.

    • art thiel

      The network televises poker. I can’t help you.

  • Big

    Pair Ray Lewis with Bill Walton. Any sport will do.

    • dinglenuts

      I can get behind that. I wouldn’t watch or listen to it, but I can get behind it.

    • art thiel

      Said hello to Bill Walton at the UW game Thursday, which is a more pleasurable way to experience him than as color analyst. It had been years, but he even bothered to spell out my last name to establish his skills at recollection. As much as I admired his hoop skills, he is one of the most remarkable characters on the U.S. sports landscape.

  • Will

    Perhaps Ray Ray is gearing up for a run at politics. Imagine, his ability to filibuster could redefine the political landscape plus his fourth dimensional talking points might make sense in DC.

    • art thiel

      Damn you, Will! ESPN is bad enough. Now you have launched him on a bigger platform. We’ll remember this . . .

  • dinglenuts

    D*mmit, Art, the following made me spit my beer all over my screen:

    “Lewis, however, is the opposite, and therefore annoying. He can blather and bloviate on most any subject, regularly choosing the third person as his demolition derby vehicle, and takes his oral dreck over a cliff where no one even saw an edge.”

    And it was good beer, too.

    I’m going to steal “over a cliff where no one saw an edge” and use it whenever I can. (Um, assuming it’s fair use.)

    • art thiel

      Thanks, dingle. I had a good editor tell me once, “If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.” So you get fair use, and I get a compliment.

  • Michael Kaiser

    Oh, I don’t know. Lewis kind of reminds me of an urban Robert Bork.

    • art thiel

      Now, there’s an analogy. Not many will get it, but I laughed.

  • Bingo1

    One of the best I’ve ever read from you Art! I laughed and laughed and laughed. I never have understood the God thing in sports. I get that these athletes are blessed with extraordinary gifts, and they can thank the good Lord all they want. But to use the national stage and somehow rationalize that God takes sides, favors one opponent over the other, one team is more blessed than the other, good grief. These are the ridiculous, dogmatic expressions that turn so many away from the faith. I see, Ray, you are gifted, wealthy and a gigantic blowhard. Save your sermons for the sanctuary where other like-minded evangelists can enjoy each others company.

    • art thiel

      Thanks, Bingo. Some athletes should be enjoyed for what they do. Then there are others . . . and ESPN still gives them a mic.

  • gonzo


    It has taken a bunch of years since the Seahawks moved from the AFC to the NFC but I have grown to hate the 49rs. So. Hang the 49rs. I want them to lose by 50 and go home crying.

    • art thiel

      No problem, Gonzo. Not gonna deny your hard-earned passion. I was aiming at the crowd that didn’t have a rooting interest yet.

  • Excellent. Although I’m still not going to root for the ‘Niners. If there was any inkling that losing would shut him up, I might lean that way. But, let’s face it, people who can’t shut up talk like alcoholics drink. They talk to celebrate, talk to mourn, talk to ease a tough time, talk to have a good time, talk to relax, and talk to just get through the day. There’s always an excuse to talk. There’s no shutting Ray Lewis up. Add to that his comic-opera piety, and the man is almost entertainingly campy. It makes you want to believe it’s an act – that he can’t really be that stupid. He is, which makes it kind of sad.

    Go ‘Hawks.

    • art thiel

      Well put, Raymond. One time in coach, I believe I sat next to someone who talked like that. I spent two hours in the bathroom, as opposed to persuading the pilot to drop it onto the nearest freeway or farmland.

  • 1coolguy

    Thank you, thank you THANK YOU, Art!
    Lewis is a great player that, due to his constant incoherent chatter, I will not miss. It’s just time for him to go away.
    I wondered whether others thought as I and I’m glad to find out others are of a similar opinion.

    • art thiel

      I have always wanted to say to him: Just because you have a thought, it is not necessarily worth sharing.

  • Genius article. I don’t understand the praise heaped upon Lewis, who conveniently lost his likely bloody white suit the night those murders took place. It always irks me too when people have to resort to God or the Devil to dodge actually explaining something.

  • DeclanPatrickCoker

    Art, the man is a preacher. I know that for white folks “preacher” is defined as a man who can put you to sleep in three languages, two of them dead, but for blacks being a preacher means being colorful. The gab doesn’t have to make sense (what preacher ever does?), but it has to be entertaining. Those pews are hard, and you’ve got to give people a darned good reason to keep sitting on them. If a bit of that colorfulness spills over onto ESPN, well, embrace this intercultural boon and let your spirit soar!

  • whoKarez

    poof….you hate lewis so much that you’d root for the 9ers whom all of seahawks nation hates? are you even a seahawk fan? i don’t really like lewis either but no way i ever root for the stinkin’ 9ers. go ravens!