By the time the 2017 NFL season rolls around, we'll be coming up on five years since Ravens great Ray Lewis said "I'm out" and danced his way off the field for the last time. Five years since his last season can only mean one thing: we're coming up on Lewis' first Hall of Fame ballot. Now, the title of this piece isn't clickbait. I feel Ray Lewis is one of the greatest players who's ever laced up his cleats. I believe that, without Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens would've suffered as being "that other Baltimore team" and failed to recapture Baltimore's love of football. See, the Ravens needed a brash, bold HOF-caliber player to be the face of the franchise and they got one in Ray Lewis. But, when Hall of Fame time comes around, you've got to legitimately wonder something.
Will Ray Lewis be a first-ballot Hall of Famer? I'll answer that question with another question.
Does a bear defecate in the woods?
The answer is "yes, more often than not." Unless it's a polar bear or something, a bear does defecate in the woods. And more often than not, Ray Lewis should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Ravens legend has the stats to back up the claim, and his leadership is unquestioned. Additionally, even though some folks won't let him forget that he was involved in a murder case, he, himself, isn't a murderer. It's hard to deny that blemish on his career, I'll admit. But, he atoned for his involvement in my eyes. No, not just through playing football. The man has, again, been one heck of a leader on and off the field since that incident and has made folks lead by example.
Do I have a problem with his initial comments regarding the Freddie Gray situation? Anyone with two ears could...even if he had a semblance of a point with them (just the wrong time and an even worse place). Plus, let's be completely honest: many sports and music icons, even if they came from the bottom, live in a different world than your average Joe. Things are seen, at times, differently. Not excusing him for going all "rawr, black-on-black crime" (which is a bad thing, but let's not get into that too much here). But, I'd like to think that I, even somewhat, understand where he came from.
However, again, the man's a legend on and off the gridiron. He's got stats records and team records that'll probably never be broken. He helped bring Baltimore two championships. The Ray Lewis dance is still something many have tried, but only a few have mastered (if you can become a meme, you're solid in some ways). And, to top it all off, he's, once again, one of the greatest to lace up and played across three decades of football. He was one of the last true smashmouth linebackers who could still rumble off some interception yardage. A hybrid of several player types, Lewis changed the game, offensively and defensively.
If Lewis isn't a first-ballot Hall of Famer, someone's got a grudge, plain and simple. Call me biased, but that's just my opinion.