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Ravens fans understand and accept Ray Lewis, no matter what media tells you

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Once again, the talk about the Baltimore Ravens doesn’t seem to be about how good this team is… instead it’s not on the game at all. But what I don’t understand is why the talk is coming from Baltimore.

Mike Preston wrote in today’s Baltimore Sun: (http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/bs-sp-preston-ravens-super-bowl-0129-20130128,0,3337578.column)

I was also glad to see the Ravens pay [Ray] Lewis a great tribute during his final home game against the Indianapolis Colts. He deserved to have a day and one more dance. The victory lap was a little extreme, but if Cal Ripken Jr. deserved a victory lap, so did Lewis. But this crying, praying, quoting Scripture and dropping to his knees during the past two games has gone too far. I believe Lewis is serious about his show of emotion. I will never question his commitment to Christianity or his love for God. But I’ve watched Lewis for 17 years, and while he is the ultimate team guy, he is also the ultimate “I” guy. He loves his fellow players, but Ray Lewis loves him some Ray Lewis, which is why he talks about himself in the third person. He likes the theater and loves to be a showman, but when is enough, enough? Even within the past week, more Baltimore fans are being turned off by his behavior as the network cameras zoom in. Microphones and recorders collect his every word even though we’re not sure what he is talking about at times. It’s funny and it’s sad.

We can all have our different opinions on Ray Lewis and how he carries himself, but the part I don’t understand about Preston’s column is “more Baltimore fans are being turned off by his behavior…”. Really? Outside of the media, who in Baltimore (that is a Ravens fan) is turned off by it? I don’t know a single person. Ravens fans understand Ray Lewis. They understand where he came from, how he has changed, and what is important to him. Baltimore loves it! Just check your Twitter feed, or Facebook newsfeed during last week’s National Anthem. When the camera went to Ray’s face with tears streaming down his cheeks, Ravens fans were cheering. They loved his passion.

If you gave your heart and soul, and your blood, sweat and tears to something at the highest level possible, for 17 years, and you knew that it was coming to an end, I’m guessing you would be pretty emotional too.

Now, outside of Baltimore, we know they don’t give him the respect that Ravens fans do. You might have seen the Ray Lewis parody on Saturday Night Live (http://www.hulu.com/watch/450058) this past week. It was a funny skit. But also a realistic view of how people outside of Maryland view Lewis. Even Ray Lewis enjoyed the skit, saying, “I laughed so hard. I was in tears last night laughing about it. It’s good to be able to joke about certain things. What I do is very serious but for them to put it in a skit and for him to play it the way he did, it’s awesome.”

So why such a disconnect between how Ravens fans feel and the rest of the country? It all goes back to something that happened 13 years ago. Non-Ravens fans won’t let it go… I call it jealousy.

According to data from the social media analysis company Fizziology (http://mashable.com/2013/01/28/ray-lewis-social-media-sentiment/), Ray Lewis was mentioned more than 63,000 times on Twitter during the week of Jan. 21 through Jan. 27. Eighteen percent of those mentions were negative — and approximately half of those negative comments referenced Lewis’ alleged role in a double murder following Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000.

The rest of the country may never get past those events back in 2000, but Ravens fans have. We have seen the change in Ray Lewis’ life. We have seen the impact he has made on the city of Baltimore and in the lives of people that live there. After 17 years, Ray Lewis is one of the Top 3 defensive players of all time. He’s a first ballot Hall-of-Famer who is wrapping up a remarkable career.

Ray Lewis deserves a victory lap.

He deserves to shed a few tears at the end of an era.

And if he wants to kneel and thank God for what he’s been able to do, then so be it.

I don’t think any Ravens fan will mind.

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