Burton on the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 24
June 15-21, 2000
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In Football, Apparently Anything Goes

Now I can get back to football and do what I do best.
—Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis following testimony in a double murder trial in Atlanta.

Get back to football?

Now let me get this straight. A couple of guys were murdered slaughterhouse style on the streets of Atlanta following the Super Bowl, the Ravens’ defensive menace cops a probation sentence after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges in exchange for the dropping of a murder rap against him. And he wants us to wipe the slate clean so he can get back to playing football.

Two guys are dead, carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey. He outright lied and otherwise misled police and the district attorney. He has made no appropriate apology. Now he has the support of Ravens’ officials, teammates and presumably thousands upon thousands of fans, and he’s headed back to the gridiron where anything short of murder is acceptable if fighting to push a pigskin over the goal line or between two goal posts.

Meanwhile, pitcher John Rocker of the Atlanta Braves has been placed on probation, warned that any more insensitive verbal outbursts will skidoo him from the game — and is currently in the minor leagues waiting for a return to the majors. Yet all he did was say some nasty things about New York and some of its citizenry.

Who got the best deal: the guy involved in the double murder or the other fellow who expressed what he thought — distasteful as it was — to a Sports Illustrated writer? If you know the answer it’s not a question …

As my card playing friend Dr. Marvin Kasik can be counted on to say after winning a hand at our favorite weekly game at Maryland Yacht Club: “Is this a great country — or what?”

Heroes and Heels

Rocker expresses his views about meandering about NYC when his team visits for season and post-season, and though they are not politically correct — and certainly disparaging — he’s on the verge of disappearing from Major League Baseball.

He exercised his freedom of speech, said things that many who live or visit the Big Apple say while holding goblets of wine at cocktail parties, on the street or within their homes. Yet the powers that be seem bent on getting him out of the game. His mistake: airing unpopular views to a reporter.

On the other hand, we have a multi-millionaire football player, snagged in a sordid sword fight on the streets, who admits to lying to police in the aftermath and who conveniently misplaced — never to be found — his bloody clothing. Ravens’ management, players and many fans welcome him back with a hero’s reception. They do it because he’s so good at smashing fellow humans who happen, unfortunately for them, to be on the other team.

Anything Goes in the Ravens’ Nest

Hey, had those who attend the games at the garish Raven’s nest in Big B wanted the ultimate in blood and gore, why didn’t Gov. Parris Glendening and Mayor Kurt Schmoke spend our money to buy them a bullfighting ring? Same show — at millions of bucks less in construction costs.

Sometimes in the bull ring, the fans root for the steer. But to hear Ed Garland, Lewis’ high-powered attorney, or the All Pro middle linebacker himself talk, everyone other than the Atlanta cops and the DA were rooting for the matador. Garland had the gall to equate Lewis’ misdemeanor conviction for obstruction of justice (what does it take to commit a felony?) to a speeding ticket.

When asked what role his days in jail facing the possibility of kissing football and freedom good-bye forever might play after the Sunday afternoon kickoffs, Lewis responded with a smile: “I think I’ll be more ticked off to hit somebody.” Sounds like bull ring talk.

And then there were Lewis’ comments on how ticked off he was at the Atlanta DA, the guy he lied to from the very beginning about involvement in the whole sordid episode, probably costing convictions for two companions because of his lies and elusiveness. That doesn’t sound repentant to me, nor does it indicate the former defendant is about to change his lifestyle much.

When reminded that his involvement in the Atlanta killings — along with the actions of another pigskin luminary who is up on a murder charge — was indicative of everything wrong with the NFL, Lewis said, “I can’t worry about that.”

He talked about the banners on the streets of Baltimore welcoming him back — and that’s not where the support ends. How about Ravens owner Art Modell, who got the biggest sweetheart deal known to man in the creation of the stadium with all its associated perks in Baltimore? How about coach Brian Billick, who, like Modell, not only expressed support for his star but also declared that henceforth the whole subject will be off-limits. You know, what’s done is done.

Seems the league feels the same way about it, seeing as there was no suspension and no decision yet on a fine under player contract policy. Like the 25-year-old player, the coach, the owner and at least most fans, the league apparently thinks it’s time to move on in life — though there’s no life left for victims Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, both of Decatur, Ga.

Lewis goes back to bashing offensive lines and anyone with a football while on probation for a year. To keep his $6 million plus football job, he’s obliged to cough up $50 a month for probation costs.
All thanks to plea bargaining.

Is this a great country or what?

Small wonder Mr. Clean, Steve Young of the San Francisco 49ers, decided to call it quits. The Mormon quarterback, known for clean living on and off the field, might have concerns about recurring concussions involved in his explosive scrambling tactics that played a big role in his many records over the years, but there’s nothing wrong with his head. He stepped out of the ring.

If things keep going like they are in the NFL, there’ll be more players in the hoosgow than on the field. Young is particular about his company.

Is this a great country or what?

What’s the World Coming to?

The answer is obvious — but we’ve got our flaws and blemishes and will have more as our society becomes increasingly relaxed in its standards. Once we had the big names in sports as role models on and off the field. No longer.

Umpires are spit on, basketball officials assaulted, hockey players clubbed. And then there are the bullfights on and off the gridiron. There aren’t many Lou Gehrigs, Brooks Robinsons, Larry Byrds, Joe Louises and Steve Youngs any more — and the same applies in other fields from art and acting to politics and rock music.

What’s the world coming to? Again, if you know the answer — it’s not a question.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly