ESPN is stuck with Ray Lewis. Or is it?
No, Lewis who ESPN hired to be a featured player on its NFL studio show, isn’t going anywhere. Yet what perception of the recently retired Ravens linebacker is ESPN stuck with?
Sunday mornings when America looks at his face, whom will it see? The cinch Hall of Famer, community leader and caring man? Or a guy who got over, beating a murder rap?
The questions take on added significance with blanket coverage of the Aaron Hernandez murder case, including its adverse impact on the already rancid image of a National Football League infested with gun-toting thugs.
Already there are stories comparing the circumstances surrounding Hernandez being charged with murder to Lewis’ own experience. This ain’t exactly the kind of advanced publicity ESPN suits wanted for Lewis, whom they believe has a big TV upside.
Ray Lewis pleads guilty to obstruction of justice after initially being charged with two counts of murder following a fight outside a Super Bowl party 13 years ago.
Thirteen years ago, Lewis was charged with two counts of murder following a fight outside a Super Bowl party. Two people were stabbed, and blood was found on Lewis’ suit and limousine. In return for testifying against the men who were with him, and pleading guilty to obstruction of justice, he was sentenced to 12 months probation.
When Lewis makes his ESPN debut, and in subsequent appearances, should he be expected to be the network’s go-to-guy when another NFL player is arrested? Or should he be expected to offer insights only on what’s happening on the field?
If ESPN wants its current coverage of the Hernandez case to have more depth, it should call on Lewis to offer commentary. According to an ESPN source, that prospect was never in the cards. Contractually, Lewis’ start date is not until August. He is currently in a very remote location. Lewis is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro on behalf of a group trying to raise awareness for clean water in Africa.
George Rizer/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Ray Lewis could provide interesting commentary on the arrest of Aaron Hernandez on murder charge.
When Lewis does get in front of the camera, the Hernandez case will still be in the news. Lewis must speak candidly about it while reflecting on his own past. Tom Jackson, a man of conscience, must engage him in discussion or debate. Lewis cannot give the topic cursory treatment and direct his analysis strictly to on the field matters.
It’s a tricky proposition. Even if Lewis is willing to talk openly about Hernandez, and the NFL’s problems with guns and lawlessness, ESPN did not hire him to be its NFL “crime” reporter. He should not be stereotyped as such. Yet, realistically, when you look at the roster of ESPN’s NFL studio mouths, Lewis is the one with the most experience in those particular trenches.
It will be up to the producers to strike a balance. This problem is compounded by the fact that Lewis is a TV novice. The mechanics of the job won’t be second nature to him. Having the added pressure of commenting spontaneously on such a controversial topic will make his rookie season even tougher.
He will have a great opportunity to quickly establish his credibility. Yet if he stonewalls in a venue where he’s paid to be candid, Ray Lewis will have a very short TV career.
Ex-Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez stands accused in the death of Odin Lloyd.
RECE RIGHT ON
Did ESPN’s NBA draft show provide a window on the future?
If the suits were watching it should. ESPN’s NBA studio show needs a legitimate anchor. Why not Rece Davis? He worked the draft and completely handled three mouths who love the sound of their own voice — Jay Bilas, Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons.
Davis got to interact with Rose and Simmons (as of Thursday they are still part of the NBA studio show), so the Bristol Clown Community College faculty saw first hand how well that went.
On the flip side, it didn’t take long to declare “reporter” Shane Battier officially awful. LeBron James wasn’t there to provide the assist, but Battier provided a full-blown Twinkie Munch for the draftees.
He couldn’t even bring himself to ask Nerlens Noel how it felt to slide to the sixth pick. Battier should stick to flopping.
THE INVISIBLE FLASH
If YES brainiacs insist on using Beavis & Butthead, aka Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill, they should not bring a third man in the booth.
Wednesday night (Rangers-Yankees), it was fortunate John Flaherty was not being paid by the word. B&B bogarted the telecast, covering plenty of ground that had nothing to do with baseball.
Like the Pinstripe Bowl. Or head sizes. Fascinating stuff. Fortunately, the viewing audience could turn their TVs off. Flaherty couldn’t. He was stuck — silently — in the broadcast booth.
MAX AND LUNDBERG DRAMA
Does ESPN-98.7’s early morning team — Jared Max and Robin Lundberg — detest each other to the point where they don’t want to work together?
That could be the case, at least for one of them. Lundberg was on vacation last week and returned Thursday. Max was to start his vacation Monday. But an ESPN stoolie says Max moved up his start time to Thursday. So he was not around to welcome his “partner” back to the microphone with open arms.
Perhaps Max bolted out of town early because he was concerned a refreshed Lundberg would be even more antagonistic, contrary and ready to verbally pound him. Max better use his vacation to chill. For when he returns, Lundberg will still be there.
Why the Valley of the Stupid?
Wednesday, Don LaGreca went into a thoughtful soliloquy on what a tragedy it is for the family of Odin Lloyd, the man who Hernandez is accused of killing, and how the NFL has all these problems with players and guns.
Then he went to the phones.
Caller: “Don, does this make Denver the favorite to win the AFC?”
Curt (Big House) Menefee was opinionated, expansive and chose the right words while discussing the Hernandez case Thursday night on CNN.
Can we expect the same from Menefee, the host of Fox’s “NFL Sunday” once the season starts? With the NFL it’s hard to say.
There’s always the possibility of Roger Goodell lobbying his network partners to go light on the subject and stay on message, talking first downs and QB controversies.
Remember, this is an environment where these networks still refuse to acknowledge point spreads and gambling.
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DUDE OF THE WEEK: JOE GIRARDI
For showing some emotion. After his team was shut out by Texas’ Derek Holland Thursday afternoon, a disgusted Girardi threw a towel out on the field. It’s about time someone in the organization got angry at something or someone other than Alex Rodriguez. The manager rarely boils over, but it’s time for him to set the tone, turn up the burner and bring some fire to a team that rarely shows any passion. Displays of agitation won’t produce wins, but actions that show you actually have a pulse can’t hurt, right?
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: BUBBA WATSON
For ripping his caddie, Ted Scott, on national TV. It happened Sunday at the Travelers Championship after Bubba (with a two stroke lead) hit his tee shot into the water. On CBS, Watson was heard telling Scott: “It’s in the water. That club. Yes, the water.” After he flew the green on the next shot, Watson told the caddie: “So you’re telling me that’s the right yardage?” Watson made it sound as if Scott was the one who hit the awful shots. Not very nice. Later, in a show of restraint and loyalty, Scott said it was “totally my fault.”
What Mark Messier said (after resigning from his Rangers job): “Although some will perceive this as a reaction to the coaching decision, nothing could be further from the truth.”
What Mark Messier meant to say: “Anyone who perceives this as a reaction to the coaching decision is correct.”