Lewis: 'They make you these gladiators'

991257.jpg

Lewis: 'They make you these gladiators'

NEW ORLEANS -- Quick inventory of Ray Lewis' week:

On Tuesday, he accused a new-age medicine man of attempting to intrude on "my speeches or my moment" at the Super Bowl.

On Wednesday, he said he announced his retirement before the season ended because "I would have robbed a lot of people of those last goodbyes for me and them. That is why I did it that way.

On Sunday, he will execute his Squirrel Dance (has anyone ever noted that the only time a squirrel would dance like that is if it ate 23 Ex-Lax coated acorns?). Cameras will be trained on him. He will cry. He will wail. He will emote. He will be the antithesis of unassuming humility.

There is a consuming conceit inherent in many professional athletes. But Lewis is at the top of the list when it comes to sending off the vibe that it's his world and we are just living in it. And it is by his benevolence that we are allowed to share in the glory of Ray.

How, I asked Ray Lewis on Thursday, will he deal with life without being the center of attention.

"Easy," he laughed. "Very easy. Seriously. I live a very normal life outside of the game. My life is so normal. And it's hard at times because people want you to live off the field like you are on the field but I try to separate that. When I'm a father, I'm a father. When I'm a son, I'm a son. When I'm a person just shopping, I'm a person just shopping."

Lewis has a post-football job awaiting him at ESPN. His intelligence and passion may play well on TV. But his reliance on the same talking points -- the main one being himself and his preacherwarrior persona -- could potentially turn him into a font of nonsense we haven't seen since Emmitt Smith sat at a studio desk.

How much humility has he demonstrated in his NFL career, I asked Lewis. Between his retirement announcement and his Squirrel Dance, it's been a bit much.

"That's a totally different person you're talking about," he pointed out. "You're talking about on the field, an ultimate warrior. That's what I do, that's what I do. On the field ain't about humility. I don't get paid to be humble on the field. I get paid to hit people in the mouth. And that takes on its own attitude in itself.

"Off the field is what people don't see," he added. "And that's with all athletes. They make you these gladiators because they only see you on game days. But off the field you will find some of the most genuine people ever in life and I promise you in my heart I'm definitely one of them just because of the way I treat people and the way my mom has raised me."

I would have liked to ask Lewis more questions. I would have liked to follow on his statement that "they make you these gladiators because they only see you on game days" and found out who made who? Who built the "Ray Lewis Football Gladiator" brand and has fed, watered and fertilized it for more than a decade while adeptly re-directing any questions that threaten the brand.

I would have liked to ask him if he understands that much of the football-viewing America considers him a hypocrite even as it respects his ability.

I would have loved to see if he understands why a very funny "Haters Guide to Ray Lewis" on Deadspin resonates so strongly with a swath of football fans that would like him to just follow the Favre route into post-football obscurity.

But I couldn't. Eyes were rolling among my media brethren. Ray's attention was waning. And people needed to know how Ray Lewis has been a mentor to his teammates. Nobody's ever heard that line of questioning.

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attended the Dayton 500 in true Gronkowski form.

He appeared to be there promoting Monster Energy drink, and was therefore hanging with the Monster Girls, who were also promoting the drink. Gronkowski's herniated disc injury, which required surgery in December 2016, does not seem to be slowing him down as he gets warmed up for the Summer of Gronk.

During the race coverage on FOX Sports, Gronk delivered a speed limit joke, which is sure to make the 13-year-old in you chuckle. (You can watch it here.)

[H/T NESN.com]

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

I think it’s time. Time to let the Deflategate wound scab over. Time to exit the active, raging, teeth-gnashing, petition-signing, lawsuit-filing portion of the program and let the hate follow its natural course into a slow-boil loathing.

If you are of Irish descent, you know how it works. Clear a big-ass space on the grudge shelf. Put Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash, Mike Kensil, Troy Vincent, Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay, every shiv-wielding owner, all the cluck-clucking media and the legion of retired players and exiled GMs from Marshall Faulk to Joey Porter through Marty Hurney and into Bill Polian up there. Turn off light. Leave room.

When you need to piss yourself off -- in traffic, mowing the lawn, waiting for your coffee -- fetch ‘em down, blow the dust off and when you’re in a sufficiently foul mood, return grudge to shelf.

You rode the roller coaster. You’ve been there, done that and have all the T-shirts.

I came to this conclusion a few days ago, when ESPN’s Cari Champion interviewed Rob Gronkowski and asked about Goodell visiting Gillette. It was like playing “Get the Stick!” with a big goofy Lab. Champion threw the leading question, Gronk fetched -- tail-wagging --  and returned with a slobbery response that was completely implausible but still designed to dominate a four-hour news cycle.

"The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what,” said Gronkowski. “They have [Tom Brady’s] back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Gronk’s just doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do. And Champion is, too. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Watch these mooks up in New England get all pissed off: “Hey, hey, Chowderhead . . . Roger Goodell . . . . ”

“F*** that guy, he better never show his face in Foxboro! But I want him to come to Foxboro so I can boo the ever-living s*** out of him and maybe barricade Route 1 like Gronk said we would!”

See? Works every time.

The irony is that the person mainly responsible for turning up the burner on this is Robert Kraft.

In May 2015, Kraft said at the owners meetings in San Francisco, “I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric, and we won’t appeal.

“Now, I know that a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed in that decision, but I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans, and the NFL, and I hope you all can respect that.”

Well, that blew up like an ACME bomb. And -- from that moment on -- Kraft has tried to recoup the fanbase that believed he sold them out by issuing a succession of calls-to-arms that the region has dutifully responded to.

The most recent was throwing down the gauntlet to Goodell by expressly inviting him to the 2017 season opener.  I mean, it would have been a conversation point anyway, but now it’s metastasized into something that will be discussed throughout the offseason, ratcheting up in early September and hitting a crescendo on opening night.

There is appeal to seeing Goodell squirm while knowing the Maras, Rooneys and Irsays will be sipping highballs and lamenting the caddish treatment of Poor Roger. But I still like the football better.

Conversation about the historic import of SB51, the legacy of Brady and Belichick, prospects for the league in 2017? I’ll take those rather than an ESPN “personality” who spent a weekend in Newburyport at a friend’s wedding telling everyone what the mindset of the New England sports fan is.  

But that’s not what we’re going to get. There will instead be ever-escalating predictions of the terrors Goodell will be subjected to fueled by interviews with tatted-up kids from the mean streets of Marshfield who wanted “Hoodie” fired when he let Revis sign with the Jets.

Unless . . . unless the region en masse decides to let its loathing mature. Mature to the point that when the carrot gets dangled in its collective face it doesn’t leap at it with teeth bared but instead says, “No thanks. Already full.”

Yeah. I don’t think it’s gonna happen either.