LOMBARDI’S WAY: A Letter to Earnest Byner

Lombardi's Way LOMBARDI’S WAY: A Letter to Earnest Byner

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Dear Earnie,


I’m writing this letter to you in an attempt to appeal to your sense of reasonability and your assumed appreciation for the history and tradition of the National Football League.


Back in 2000 during halftime of a game between the Ravens and the Browns, you became the first inductee into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor.  You later admitted, "That [award] was a tremendous thrill. My legacy was the tie between two cities."


Now you must admit and understand that the Ring of Honor is a prestigious award.  It is intended to honor Ravens of the past who performed on and off the field with distinction.  Please allow me to be perfectly frank here Ernie, your career as a Raven was hardly distinguished.  And as the inaugural inductee, you should represent the standard upon which all future inductees are measured.


Let’s talk about measurements…


During your two seasons as a Raven, you rushed for 947 yards, had 398 yards receiving and you scored five touchdowns in 14 total starts in 1996 and 1997.  As of this writing, your rushing totals don’t even place you among the top 5 Ravens’ of all time despite the franchise’s short history.


This past Sunday, Willis McGahee moved into fourth place on the team’s all-time rushing chart (1,558 yards) one notch above Bam Morris (1,511 yards).  Jamal Lewis (7,801), Priest Holmes (2,102), Chester Taylor (1,599) and even Errict Rhett (1,032) have more rushing yards as members of the Baltimore Ravens.  Of those six only Lewis is expected to be a ring inductee.


You know as well as I do that your inclusion in that ring was yet another example of Art Modell’s sentimentality and philanthropic tendencies.  In an obvious moment of weakness he honored you for your commitment to his organization for time served in
Cleveland and in

.  You even admit that your inclusion in the ring ties the two cities together.  But Earnie, let’s be honest here, those two cities don’t care about sharing connectivity.  Actually they would probably prefer to untie any ties that bind them.


You didn’t ask me, but I think Mr. Modell should have given you a nice watch and said thank you.  Instead, we are all reminded of his egregious error every time we look at the Ring of Honor.


Yesterday, Jonathan Ogden, arguably the greatest Raven of all time was honored and placed among your distinguished brethren.  Yet with you as the standard, how is that an honor?  It isn’t your fault that you are up there among them but really isn’t

placed in your company of honor about the same as Joe Flacco being named MVP of a high school all-star game?


I don’t mean to diminish your accomplishments as a professional football player.  You had a fine career with the Redskins and Browns.  You were a Pro Bowler in ’90 and ’91 while you were with the Redskins, won a Super Bowl while wearing the burgundy and gold and you were even named one of the 70 greatest Redskins of all time.  That you deserved!  The Ravens Ring of Honor you do not deserve and I’m sure if you’ve given it any thought, you’d admit it too.


Future generations of Ravens fans will remember Jon Ogden.  They might even remember Michael McCrary or Peter Boulware.  But they will only remember you as an inductee who doesn’t belong, if at all.


So how can this be corrected?  How can future inductees feel a greater sense of accomplishment?  Surely if your 947 yards serve as the measuring stick, how soon will it be before they run out of placard space down there at M&T Bank Stadium?


Steve Bisciotti won’t take down your name.  That would be a slap in the face of a man he respects and admires – namely Art Modell.  Mr. Modell would never take it down.  He wouldn’t want to embarrass you and he’s simply just too kind and considerate of a man.


So really Earnie, it’s up to you.  You should volunteer to have your named removed from the ring.  Instead of being looked upon as an undeserving and almost laughable member of that ring, you could be viewed as a very reasonable man with such an appreciation of the league’s history and tradition that through your voluntary removal from the ring you would be viewed by all as incredibly selfless.


You would be remembered for your dignity.


By definition honor is a token of esteem paid to worth; a mark of respect.


How ironic is it that you would be viewed as more honorable by removing your name from the Ring of Honor?


But you know what Earnie? That is exactly what would happen.


So from my vantage point it really boils down to this – keep your name in the ring and be the butt of jokes or remove it and earn the respect that you will never realize as an undeserving inductee.


The choice is yours and yours alone.


I hope you make the right one.
To the future,
Tony Lombardi

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi


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