Ray Lewis Delivered Speech To Bills Before Game Vs. Patriots, Rex Ryan Confirms
By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Linebacking legend Ray Lewis is employed by ESPN to offer his unbridled, honest opinions about the NFL and its 32 teams. That includes times, apparently, when he's enlisted to pump up one team a night before covering that same team on television the following night.
That was the case this week, when Lewis delivered a speech to the Bills on Sunday night at the team hotel in advance of their Monday night showdown against the Patriots.
Scott Zolak reported the information on Tuesday, and Rex Ryan confirmed it on Wednesday.
It's not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things in this world, but given that Lewis was brought in by his old coach to try to provide some inspiration to the Bills so that they could defeat the Patriots, just a few hours before Lewis was scheduled to go on television and offer analysis about the game, it's at least a bit curious.
Of course in sports, the need for every analyst to be objective is not nearly as important as it is for commentators in the fields of news, politics, finance, and really any other area that has a great impact on society at large. This is, after all, sports we're talking about, so if somebody offers commentary that comes with a huge bias, ultimately nobody gets hurt. If this happened in one of those other areas, then we'd have a full-blown scandal. As it is, we have a man talking about sports on a television show for a network that hopes to draw ratings. That is, ultimately, the goal of any television program.
There's also the fact that former players often make great analysts (Ray Lewis notwithstanding), and those former players will obviously have their own personal histories with teams they played for and teams they played against, and there's really no reason to pretend that history doesn't exist. Certainly, fans in this region don't get upset when Tedy Bruschi or Willie McGinest or Heath Evans says something nice about Tom Brady or the Patriots.
Plus, when the person making the statement is so far off from reality, there's typically a team of level-headed folks to bring the whole segment back to earth. Viewers are smart enough to figure these things out.
Nevertheless, Ray Lewis launched a major kerfuffle in the New England area on Monday night when he said he'd prefer Rex Ryan as a coach over Bill Belichick. His exact words were "If you're asking me Bill Belichick or Rex Ryan, I'm taking Rex Ryan all day, because Rex relates to players as well as myself more like a father."
(As a reminder, Lewis played for a Ravens defense that employed Ryan from 1999-2008. Lewis never played for Belichick and instead had to face him as a conference rival many times.)
Despite the obvious absurdity of such a statement, many folks in New England raised a stink. That likely generates as much from ESPN's off-kilter coverage of "DeflateGate" this past year, as well as still-lingering negative thoughts of Lewis from the aforementioned rivalry, than it does from the statement itself.
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Yet given the way this region perceives the way the largest sports media outlet in the country covered the No. 1 sports story of this calendar year, it doesn't exactly help ESPN's cause to have an analyst from its prime piece of programming leading pep rallies for the team that's playing the Patriots on ESPN. So we have ourselves a little story here.
But fear not, Patriots fans. Obviously, the speech did not deliver enough special mojo to allow the Bills to win in Foxboro, and to anybody who's seen these "inspiring" speeches, that certainly comes as no surprise. Not only does Ray Lewis' tongue have no bones, but it also lacks the power to lead an inferior team to a much-desired road victory.
Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here. You can email him or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.
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