Ray Lewis: Master genius, esteemed strategist
The “1,2,3” strategy is a classic parenting tool. If a child is misbehaving, simply threatening the child by saying that something bad will happen by the time you count to three is an effective way to get the kid to behave.
Well, the Ravens were misbehaving; they lost four of their last five regular season games. So, Lewis skipped one and two, and went directly to three, announcing that something bad might happen.
He announced that he would be retiring from the game of football after the playoffs. In other words, he said, if we lose, I will no longer play football. When Ray Lewis tells you that his career will end if you lose, you don’t lose. Nobody wants to be the guy that ended 52’s career.
Ray wasn’t about to go out in the first round of the playoffs, he knew that the Ravens were underperforming. Masterfully, he developed the plan of announcing his retirement to inspire Baltimore to win the Super Bowl. The Ravens have everything you need to win a ring: an experienced defense, a solid quarterback, a dynamic running game, and deep threats at receiver. However, they were lacking one thing: inspiration. And Ray gave them a healthy dose of it.
The thing is, I don’t think Ray was planning on retiring until a few days before the playoffs. On January 2, 2013, in an act of pure genius, Ray Lewis announced that the matchup against the Colts would be his final game at M&T Bank Stadium. This announcement amped up the fans, players and everyone else more than a playoff berth ever could. The Ravens are in the playoffs, in a sudden death situation in more ways than one. Not only would a loss end the season, it would end the career of a legend.
But, anyone who saw Ray play in these past two games knows that he could keep playing for at least one more year. He played it quite close to the chest by announcing his impending retirement, he sacrificed a few seasons for a shot at the big one. And it’s going to work.
The Ravens Wild Card game against the Colts resulted in a comfortable win, thanks to the heroics of the under appreciated Anquan Boldin. Ray came out of the tunnel in Baltimore for his pregame dance ritual for the final time, and got the win. He ripped some grass up, sniffed it, tossed it, and did his “squirrel dance” for a final time at home.
The real magic though, came last Saturday when the Ravens traveled to Denver to play Peyton Manning’s Broncos. Very few expected the Ravens to win the game, Peyton was dealing and the Broncos were the number one seed.
Lewis, in storybook fashion, recorded 17 tackles in an overtime upset of the Broncos. The win didn’t come easily, or even conventionally, but it did come. After a miraculous 70 yard touchdown reception by Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones tied the game up at 35 in the final minute of regulation, the Broncos showed poor clock management and knelt regulation away.
After that, Peyton Manning, yes the older one, threw an interception late in the first overtime period. The Ravens’ Justin Tucker then proceeded to hit a 47 yard game-winning field goal.
Ray Lewis fell to the ground in joy as soon as the ball crossed through the uprights. He stayed alive, his team earned him at least one more game. Baltimore now has to travel to Foxborough, Mass. and defeat Tom Brady and Co. on his home turf in order to reach the Super Bowl.
While that seems unlikely, I can’t help but think the Ravens will win. You can’t write a script this good. The 17 year vet, a man who reinvented a position, overcame adversity, and inspired a generation of linebackers is playing for his football life.
The Ravens will beat the Patriots this weekend, and then they’ll win the Super Bowl. They will do this because Ray Lewis is a living, breathing motivational speech. Thanks to Ray Lewis’ master plan of retirement, the Ravens are destined for glory, and Lewis is poised to dance off into the sunset.