One thing quickly became clear while watching “Ray Lewis: A Football Life,” which will air Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on NFL Network -- Baltimore and the football world outside of this city have a lot of love for Ray Lewis.
The crew of NFL Films followed Lewis throughout the 2011 season, and in Wednesday’s hour-long look at the life of the Ravens linebacker, Ravens coach John Harbaugh; a giddy, purple-clad mom from Baltimore; an older fan who eventually lost his battle with cancer this year; and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady each tells Lewis that he or she loves him. “I mean that,” Brady said after the AFC championship game. And Lewis, at least while the cameras are still rolling, shares his love and his gospel with all those who seek it out.
And boy, is there a lot of preaching and praying -- not that there is anything wrong with that. Lewis talks to God on the sideline and in the bowels of the stadium. He leads an impassioned prayer in the house of Bill Warble before he dies. He shares with a group of law students at Harvard that God spoke to him when he was prison in Atlanta after being accused of double murder (that segment was one of the most interesting moments).
Lewis was the first NFL player to ever wear a microphone for every game in a season, and with good off-the-field access to the future Hall of Famer, too, NFL Films is able to show him in a few different environments. My favorite moment is when Lewis spends time with his six kids during the team’s bye week last season, and he screams like a girl at a Justin Bieber concert as his oldest son, Ray III, runs for a long touchdown in a high school football game.
But this series is called “A Football Life” for a reason.
It is cool to eavesdrop on his on-field conversations, like his postgame hug with Brady or Harbaugh telling Lewis in the Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers that he is “carrying us on your back because you’re a great leader.” And it is revealing when they show Lewis reacting to the toe injury he aggravated in the loss to the Seattle Seahawks, as right away he barks to one of his Ravens teammates, “No. No. I’m not alright.” He finishes the game, though.
Along the way, the documentary show also does a good job of chronicling the 2011 season for the Ravens, from the highs of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers twice and winning the division to the low of Lee Evans, Billy Cundiff and the missed opportunities in the 23-20 loss to the Patriots in the AFC championship game. Lewis, whose face is noticably heavier on the show before his offseason weight loss, refuses to point the finger at any one player.
The walk-off shot is Lewis running out of the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium and disappearing through a cloud of smoke, with him saying in a voiceover that he owes one more Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore and to his teammates before he can finally walk away.
No wonder there is so much love for Ray around here.