11:00 AM EST, January 6, 2013
There are some people in this town who think that Ray Lewis is washed up ("'My last ride,'" Jan. 3). Some people think he isn't fast enough anymore or that he can't tackle hard enough. These people focus on the fact that his retirement will free up salary space. However, for an entire generation, this is more than the end of a player's career.
I was born in 1986. I wasn't around to experience the Baltimore Colts. I've only heard the stories. I know about Johnny Unitas and I've heard about the Mayflower moving vans. I lived 10 years without football in Baltimore. My generation has never known Baltimore football outside of the Ravens. We have never known Baltimore football without Ray Lewis. To my generation, he is more than just a player. He embodies everything football in Baltimore is about: tenacity, spirit and heart. Some people thought Baltimore couldn't sustain a football team. They thought we weren't a football town. We proved them wrong. I would like to think that Ray's passion for the game inspired an entire city. Now this is one of the hardest cities to play in for any visiting team. We yell louder. We cheer harder.
For the past 17 years, we have watched Ray run out of that tunnel. We've gone through a Super Bowl with him and we've gone through rough seasons with him. No matter what the case, he has always been there. Black and purple jerseys have covered Russell Street, and No. 52 has been there every week. At every home game and every tailgate there is an undeniable feeling of excitement. That excitement will go on. Football will go on. Sundays will still be filled with the roar of M&T Bank Stadium. Still, it is hard to imagine Baltimore football without Ray Lewis.
Thanks, Ray. Thanks for an amazing run and for showing an entire generation of Baltimore football fans what the game is really about.
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