HEY, I LOVE the NFL as much as anyone else.
And I'm really going to miss it if the lockout causes a loss of games.
But Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis sounds like a man who has made one too many hard-hitting tackles.
In an interview that aired yesterday, Lewis told ESPN reporter Sal Paolantonio: "Do this research if we don't have a season . . . watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up if you take away our game."
Talk about having an overinflated sense of the value of a game.
Don't tell any Republican governor that the NFL is the answer to lowering the crime rate because police unions already are facing a tough enough battle trying to protect their jobs and benefits.
Why do we need more police on the streets when increasing the NFL schedule to 18 games will work just as well?
"There's too many people that live through us," Lewis said. "Yeah, walk in the streets, the way I walk the streets, and I'm not talking about the people you see all the time."
I can only assume that Lewis is talking about a shadier element of citizens - ones who make their livings victimizing other people through criminal activity.
Apparently in his mind, they treat NFL Sundays like the sabbath, so without the games there would be no reason to take the day off from committing more crimes.
"There's nothing else to do, Sal," Lewis told Paolantonio.
Little things like going to a house of worship won't help ease those criminal compulsions, but sitting down in front of a stolen big-screen HD television with a plate of buffalo wings will stop hustlers from wanting to get paid.
Come on, Ray, think about what you are actually saying before letting the words fly out of your mouth.
Think about how simplistic it sounds to say that watching football prevents crime because it gives criminals something else to do.
Does this logic apply to "Monday Night Football" as well?
If the NFL really wants to do America a favor, shouldn't it make the Thursday-night games on the NFL Network a seasonlong thing?
And isn't it kind of antisocial of DirecTV to charge people for the NFL package when it might be preventing viewers from being victimized? On second thought, forget that, because there might be a surcharge added once it is discovered that we also are getting a security package along with access to out-of-market games.
If ESPN - which has college football on just about every day of the week - airs a game on Sunday, will that help?
I don't mean to come down on Lewis - well, actually I do - but this is just another example of an athlete taking the importance of his game way too seriously.
Sure, the NFL adds enjoyment to a large number of people's lives, but it's not one of society's linchpins.
I know it might not seem like it if you only listen to the whining coming from the sports world about the lockout, but we really can get along just fine without the NFL or any other professional sport.
We've done it before.
I'll give Lewis a minuscule amount of credence if we want to stretch the issue of connect the dots.
I supposed if some drug dealer is really into a football team, he might not be on the street corner during those 3 1/2 hours that his team is playing.
In a sense, that would be the NFL acting as a deterrent to criminal activity for those 3 1/2 hours.
But it's clear that Lewis' statements were meant for a much grander scale.
I take everything professional athletes say with a grain of salt because their reality is sometimes distorted by the fantasy land they live in.
On a lot of levels, pro athletes are just ordinary people, but the lifestyles they lead are so far removed from those of the average American that sometimes the lines get blurred.
To Lewis, because being an NFL player has granted him so many privileges and opportunities, he probably does think the league has the same amount of importance to society in general as it does to him.
But it doesn't.
A lot of us love football, and sometimes we react in ways that some would consider a little extreme. Still, at the end of the day we know it's just a game.
No matter how many times we may say we can't live without it, we know that we can and will do so just fine if we have to.
We also know that as much as we might like to think that the NFL can fight crime, we know that it can't - just like Superman or Batman or Spider-Man actually can't.
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