NEW ORLEANS -- It would be one thing if Ray Lewis just went out and played football and kept his mouth shut.
Yes, he'd still be a man who played a role in the killing of two young men but at the very least he'd be an innocent in the court of hypocrisy.
The Baltimore Ravens linebacker and team leader, however, must rub our faces in the duality of his life lived with his proclamations about God and the path being chosen for him by the Lord.
I didn't bring up the subject and conflicting message of Ray then and Ray now.
Ray did with his incessant preaching following games and during one sitdown interview after another. Ray Lewis wants you to know he his good and he is righteous.
And since he wants us to listen to his perspective about the effect God has had on his life, let's take a moment to investigate the topic.
Is Ray Lewis truly a changed man? Or is he a con man systematically sanitizing his image in an attempt to make us all look the other way? Should we praise Lewis for his community work and certain Hall of Fame career? Or should we pay a little more attention to his role in the brutal stabbing deaths of Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker.
No one, other than Lewis himself, really knows the truth. Is Ray repentant? Almost certainly. Has he changed for the better? Appearances would suggest so.
"I'm in awe of the work that God can do in one man's life. To me, Ray's the epitome of that," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, following his team's AFC championship win over the New England Patriots. "Ray's a guy that has turned everything over. He's surrendered everything, and he's become the man that he is to this day. He's a different man than he was when he was at 22 or 15 or whatever. I think everybody sees that right now. I think it's a great thing for kids to see. It's a great thing for fathers to see."
This isn't the place for a treatise on Christianity but forgiveness is one of the faith's cornerstones.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," says the Bible.
That's where Ray kind of loses me. Maybe he's confessed to God but he certainly hasn't come clean to the law, public or victims' families.
"Step up and be the man you claim you are," said Baker's uncle Greg Wilson in an interview with the Buffalo News last week. "Step up and tell the truth and quit portraying yourself to the children of America like you're a hero. You ain't no hero. You ain't s . Tell the truth, and take it like a man."
Lewis wrote cheques to the victims' families rather than face a civil trial and then began cleansing his image using the Bible as his personal scrub brush.
It's mostly worked. Football fans like to focus on Lewis's career, which is near incomparable. Folks in Baltimore point to the wonderful work he's done in their community. No argument here. Lewis is among the greatest to ever play football. Instinctive. Fierce. Committed. No team would say no to Ray Lewis on matters of football.
His foundation has helped thousands. Lewis has had a tremendous impact on the people of Baltimore.
Maybe Lewis really has made his peace with God.
But forgiveness is a funny thing. It can be a crutch or a cure-all.
There is work to be done when it comes to righting one's wrongs and to me it should start with those who have been done wrong.
"It's sickening to see (Lewis)," Wilson said. "It's sickening to see his face. It's sickening to see his name and everybody glorifying him. It's disgusting to see America grasp him like this."
That doesn't sound like a family at peace. A family given the opportunity to address the perpetrators and crimes inflicted upon them. Lewis could make that happen. He had the chance once but skirted it and used money to try and absolve his guilt. He failed.
Lewis is heading to retirement and a new chapter in his life. Maybe he can start by closing another.
That would be something worth praising.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @garylawless