On Pro Football
Have you heard this story before?
A person is accused of doing something really, really bad by the National Football League. The NFL not only condemns him, but nails him with the largest fine to one individual in the history of the league. And the next year, that individual, channels the negative publicity and one of the most successful years of his incredible career.
Bill Belichick, Spygate and the almost-undefeated New England Patriots in 2007?
This person is Ray Lewis. And the "really bad" event was that two men died from stab wounds during a fight outside of an Atlanta night club in 2000 during Super Bowl week. Lewis was initially charged for murder, but those charges were later dropped and he "only" was charged with obstruction of justice for lying about what happened and was given a sentence of probation for one year.
His two pals, whom he later testified against in the murder trial, eventually were acquitted.
Lewis was fined a then-record $250,000.
But here are three disturbing facts about the case:
1. Lewis wore a white suit that night and it was never found, which led prosecutors to believe it was blood-stained and thrown away.
2. The "murders" have never been solved.
3. Lewis reportedly made "undisclosed" payments to the families of the dead men.
Anyway, the next season Lewis was on a mission, just like the Patriots were in 2007. He went on to win the first of two NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards. And the once-laughable Baltimore Ravens won its first and only Super Bowl.
Why do I bring up this sad story?
Well, Lewis' current coach with the Baltimore Ravens, John Harbaugh, made a few comments on a Baltimore sports radio station on Tuesday. While discussing the New Orleans Bounty-gate penalties, Harbaugh brought up Belichick and the New England Patriots Spygate scandal, implying their three Super Bowl championships were tarnished because of the "cheating."
Harbaugh has that right, though he changed his tune later in the day saying he was only referring to the "perception" out there.
So now we've had to endure two more days about the "asterisk" and the three Patriots Super Bowls. Tedy Bruschi had to speak up on ESPN on behalf of his former franchise and former teammates. National talk shows had a field day.
Can't we all admit the Patriots and Belichick, in particular, are lightning rods across America. During a dull day, it's sports' version of abortion. Bring up Belichick and the phone banks are lit up.
But really it is as much, if not more, jealousy than it is disdain.
What Harbaugh has to understand is that if Belichick became a free agent, he would be out of a job. Every year, it's been either the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts or your Patriots sending them home earlier than expected.
Harbaugh should have known better. If anyone would rather keep us from looking, again, for old skeletons in their closets, it's the Ravens and their captain.
You can e-mail Bill Burt at email@example.com.