The Hall of Famer linebacker is America’s most confusing motivational speaker.
Ray Lewis deserves all the credit we can give him for his football career. Middle linebacker isn’t a position that lends itself well to sexy stats, but if you need a number to explain to the people at your fantasy draft about Lewis’ bona fides, use this one — the only player in NFL history with at least 30 interceptions and 40 sacks.
The doughy, old gatekeepers who decide which players get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame actually did something right when they decided Lewis was worthy of enshrinement on the first ballot.
The only downside to their decision is that it subjects us to another awkward public display of another thing Lewis is famous for — inspirational speaking.
Rousing locker room speech is really the practice of finding the right cadence and tone. The words don’t have to matter as long as there’s some mix of important terms like “our house, brotherhood, God, momentum,” etc. Lewis’ sideline speeches were apparently very powerful and complete nonsense, as pointed out by Joe Flacco. And yet, somehow Lewis has managed to make a career of speaking his mind.
Here, without further commentary, are my own picks for the most confusing, problematic and uncomfortable things Ray Lewis has ever said.
His Hall of Fame speech
I was wrong. It wasn’t 45 minutes; it was a mere 33 minutes. But it was just as meandering and mostly meaningless as I thought it would be.
He wandered around the stage, sweated profusely … it was everything you expected the most important speech of Ray Lewis’ career. Yes, it was, at times, touching, and some of the themes were fine — togetherness is good! It’s also vague.
Over the course of that half hour, Lewis talked about everything from overcoming his torn triceps (nothing on deer antler spray, though), questioning the Super Bowl blackout again, the religious undertones of his pregame dance, kissing his kids on the mouth, sex trafficking, prayer in schools … and A LOT more about Ray Lewis.
Lewis talks about togetherness, healing unity, etc. He’s then quick to judge his fellow players for who don’t conform to his vision of what they should be, which is largely a vision of a passionate, but docile football player, happily bending to the will of team owners and the league. But he says those things in a way that shows just how convinced he is, and that convinces anyone listening that he must be right, not that they really understand what he’s saying.
Randy Moss said more with his tie than Lewis did in 33 minutes.
On the subject of momentum
“People don’t really know how huge momentum is. Momentum is huge.”
It really is.
Ray Lewis prevents crime
Lewis has some zany sociological theories:
Ray Lewis said the contagious positive energy surrounding his induction reminds him of his playing days. “When I played, crime went lower in Baltimore,” Lewis said. “It’s like, nobody needs to be mad now. It’s like everybody wants to be happy and celebrate.”
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) August 3, 2018
The NFL also prevents crime
With a player lockout putting the 2011 season in jeopardy, Lewis laid bare the dire consequences, as he foresaw them.
“Do this research if we don’t have a season — watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game,” he told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.
“There’s nothing else to do Sal.”
Well, there’s baseball … okay, nevermind.
So much for solidarity
I can’t imagine Lewis’ fellow union members loved the sound of Lewis stumping for owners with that whole crime warning. I’m sure they were absolutely thrilled with what else he had to say about players fighting for a new collective bargaining agreement.
“It’s simple, we really got to remove pride. Seriously. There’s no other reason the issue is going on. That’s why I don’t get into words and all that other stuff, because it takes away from life … itself.
I know the main reason players didn’t hold out longer was not because of Lewis’ admonishment, but it certainly doesn’t help the cause of his fellow players, especially since most players who pass through the league never get the kind of contracts Lewis signed during his career.
Ray Lewis mashing words together is funny. Being shitty is not funny.
Lewis is confused about Kaepernick
Speaking of shitty, let’s not forget the low point of Lewis’ career as a television talking head (seriously, what a terrible idea that was), which came just last year when he once again went to bat for owners, specifically Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, criticizing Colin Kaepernick for speaking out against police brutality and racial inequality.
He actually started criticizing Kaepernick in 2016, with Lewis-isms like this:
“I understand what you’re trying to do, but take the flag out of it. […] I think if Colin really just steps back, because to affect change, if you don’t have a real solution, if you ain’t seen as a true activist to go into these hoods and do these things on a daily basis and not just jump up and protest because you’re sick of this one thing …”
He failed to mention the “real solution” of Kaepernick pledging one million dollars of his own money, not to mention the effort to start a national dialogue over the issue.
“If you do nothing else, young man, get back on the football field and let your play speak for itself. And what you do off the field, don’t let too many people know, because they gonna judge you anyway, no matter what you do, no matter if it’s good or bad.”
Lewis missed the part where Kaepernick WAS trying to play football again, but teams, including the Ravens, were blackballing him.
And that wasn’t even the end of it. Lewis made himself look like a fool over the whole affair, a grandstanding egotist.
Do not mention deer antlers, even with your hat!
That wasn’t the first time Lewis had beef with Kaepernick. He ago was apparently damaged because of a hat — yes, A Hat! — that Kaepernick wore after Super Bowl XLVII, when Lewis’ Ravens beat the 49ers.
Kaepernick wore a Milwaukee Bucks cap. Lewis reportedly took that to be a slap at him because of the whole flap over the whole deer antler spray Lewis allegedly used to help himself get over a torn triceps.
That incident has always been a touchy subject for Lewis. It’s also a good way to get him to stop talking.
Ray Lewis is here for Odell
Kaepernick wasn’t the only player Lewis counseled via the media. He had some words for Odell Beckham Jr. too.
“Where there’s no God, there’s chaos,” Lewis said on The Herd. “Odell has removed God from his life. This is a kid who grew up under the covenant of who God really is. And everything that he’s doing, he’s crying out for help.”
Uh huh. When asked about reaching out to Beckham, it got even weirder.
“It’s not what he said, it’s the commitment he started to make. So we started to make those phone calls, we started to have conversation. And then I started to see [that] he started to distance himself a little more, a little more, and a little more. And the moment — just listen to me, Colin, I don’t care about religion, I’m talking about a foundation. When your foundation is disturbed, when everything you’re doing is the opposite of what’s got you to this place, then you’re making your own bed hard.”
“I’m not gonna accuse nobody of nothing — because I don’t know facts,” Lewis said, according to USA Today’s Nate Davis. “But you’re a zillion-dollar company, and your lights go out? No. No way.”
As with everything, Ray Lewis managed to bring it back to Ray Lewis.
“Now listen, if you grew up like I grew up — and you grew up in a household like I grew up — then sometimes your lights might go out, because times get hard. I understand that. But you cannot tell me somebody wasn’t sitting there and when they say, ‘The Ravens (are) about to blow them out. Man, we better do something.’ … That’s a huge shift in any game, in all seriousness. And as you see how huge it was because it let them right back in the game.”
A Tom Brady hot take for the ages
Brady and the Tuck Rule
“The only reason we know — I’m just being honest — the only reason we know who Tom Brady is, is because of the tuck rule. There’s no such thing as a tuck rule,” said Lewis.
Water polo is apparently for weak fools who need hope.
“But we don’t need no hope. Y’all can keep your hope because we’ve got enough hope over here. We’re packing our bags, and we’re not packing our bags to come play water polo,” Lewis said when asked about playing the Jets in 2010.
Water polo is actually a very difficult sport to play.
“Pissed off for greatness”
“‘Cause if you ain’t pissed off for greatness then that means you’re OK with being mediocre.”
That was just the main highlight. He opened up with what I can only assume to be one of his rejected Successories submissions.
“If tomorrow wasn’t promised, what would you give for today?”
Credit for quotes he didn’t even come up with
It says something about your reputation as a motivational speaker when long-standing clinches are wrongly attributed to you.
Lewis did not make up “stand for something, or else you’ll fall for anything” but the Ravens gave him credit for it anyway.
Ray Lewis was against Joe Flacco before he was for him
Lewis is either bad TV or unintentionally really good TV. Either way, questioning Joe Flacco’s passion for the game probably got him a quick phone call from Bisciotti. Lewis backtracked on it pretty fast.
Yes, he brought that back to himself too.
“It was just me being frustrated of watching something that I had control over for so many years, which was men and inspiring them to go on and do things.”
He also said this in a confusing direct appeal to Flacco:
“You’re a man, and you put your pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else. Listen, from a man, you’ll never hear it again. Sorry for ever even calling out your name in the context of making you try to be anything that I am or anything that you’re not.”
Weapons, God, you know, that kind of stuff
After beating the Broncos on their way to the Super Bowl in 2013, cameras got an excited Lewis riffing after the game.
“No weapon formed against me shall prosper, no weapon.” He hugged Peyton Manning, and then launched right back into it.
“No weapon, no weapon, God is amazing.”
I’m sure I’m missing more than a few, so if you have a favorite non-sensical Ray Lewis speechifying moment, drop it in the comments.