Yes, there's that
word again: crucify. It's no slip. Lewis won't go so far as to call himself the
Second Coming, but he's close to believing himself a prophet of sorts, and if
martyrdom is the price, so be it. "God has me to do what people are afraid
to do: tell the truth," he says. "Yes, racism does exist. Hatred exists
every day. I'm not afraid. The worst thing that could happen to me--and I don't
see it as the worst--is to be killed and go to heaven."
There are many who won't take kindly to Ray Lewis, of all people, telling them
how to live. After Baltimore's season-opening win at Tampa Bay this season,
three of Lewis's sons were standing outside the Ravens' locker room, their
dad's name and number on their backs. A woman walked up to their mother and,
speaking just above their heads, hissed, "I can't believe you let your kids
wear that murderer's jersey."
Five weeks later
in Baltimore, it's different. The Ravens have lost a seesaw spectacle with
Carolina that left McNair with a concussion. The plan looks shaky for the
moment; McNair has struggled, the running game is a mess. Still, Lewis led the
defense in tackles again, and now he's in his family suite high above the empty
stands. His kids are there, four boys and two girls squirming about his legs.
"Let me see your abs!" Lewis commands two of the boys. They lift their
jerseys, and he laughs and says, "You got to do your push-ups and
The kids spill
into the hall, Lewis bellowing, "Who knows my birthday?"
"May 25th ...
no, 15th," says one. "1975!" blurts another.
brothers' and sisters' hands now."
The group stops at
the elevator, Lewis's mother and sisters and friends bringing up the rear. A
Baltimore police officer sidles up; a few hundred fans line the barriers
outside, waiting. "Do you want us to walk you out there?" the cop asks
He thinks, then
says, "No, there'll be lots of people."
On the ground
floor Lewis stands inside the main doors of the stadium, gathering the kids
around him again. The crowd outside sees him through the glass, and you can
hear his name in imploring tones, over and over, the pleas already starting for
a signature, a photo. "Come on," he says and pushes; the doors fly
open. His head is down. Sinner hits the late afternoon air, plunging forward to
greet his flock.