Bird Brown: Great speech, Ray, but you dropped the ball

Ray Lewis gives his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech after his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Wasn’t “Ray Ray” great last weekend at the NFL Hall of Fame ceremonies?

The man has always been an inspirational leader on the field and an exceptional orator off the field but last weekend was just off the charts. He fired the heavily Ravens-influenced crowd up with chants of “Bal-TEE-More,” and crushed his fashion game with the purple pants to coordinate with his new gold jacket.


Despite his politics, which I don’t think belong in the game, and his incredibly ridiculous decision to drop to his knees on foreign soil — the same country from which we declared our independence — last year in an embarrassing excuse for a football game, Ray just has a way of trying to unite people with his pulpit.

Last Saturday night was no different.


The speech was on point, humorous, and inspirational.

He recognized all of the people that had been involved in his life all along the trip to Canton. He told great stories of character and heart on the field and love and support off the field. He introduced all of his children and told stories about them and how they worked to keep their family strong.

Ravens great Ray Lewis thanked many people as he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

Ray humiliated his brother Keon Lattimore with stories of younger days when he was affectionately known as “Muffin Man” that brought tears of laughter to everyone in attendance and others of the struggles that “real-life” people go through every day to try to make ends meet. He gushed over his momma like every red-blooded American male would do and acknowledged the sacrifices and hard times she put herself through to give Ray and his family a better life than the one they were dealt.

He thanked everyone from Ozzie Newsome to Mama McNair, and even began a small tribute to former owner Art Modell, calling him the visionary that brought the gift of football to Baltimore.

That’s where he dropped the ball.

Ray Lewis' greatest quotes.

Talk about using your pulpit for advancing your cause, Ray had the perfect opportunity to bring attention to the tragedy that is from Art Model NOT being in the Hall of Fame, but like the Orioles’ Chris Davis, he took a big swing and a miss on this one.

Not only should Modell be IN the Hall of Fame, there should a wing of it in his honor that every player or fan that comes through should pay homage to.

The players should kiss his Super Bowl ring on their way in and thank him for their outrageous salaries by making a donation to their favorite charity in his name.

Forget about the move of the franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore.

Regardless of what side you’re on, it stinks.

Let’s just consider the impact Modell had on the National Football League itself and the product that has become the most impressive in professional sports.

Modell served as an owner for 43 years, earned two NFL titles, and was the only elected president in the league’s history. He was the Chairman of the Owners Labor Committee, which successfully negotiated the players’ first collective bargaining agreement which remains one of the most fair and equitable contracts in pro sports.


He helped establish and served as chairman of NFL Films.

During the merger negotiations between the NFL and the AFL, Modell served on the merger committee and broke the impasse of the realignment by the two leagues by agreeing to move his Cleveland Browns to the AFL.

Think about that for a minute.

Moving a storied franchise of an established league in to a mixture of new teams for the benefit of the whole league.

Few people today would be that selfish. He helped establish and served as chairman of NFL Films.

Bottom line, for a true Baltimoron like myself, is that Art Modell helped bring football back to Baltimore.

Do we agree with the way it happened? No.

Did he and the collection of Maryland politicians that made the deal too sweet to pass up play by the guidelines that the NFL established? Absolutely.

Probably his greatest contribution to the game came while serving as the lead negotiator for the NFL — Modell was able to help establish Monday Night Football.

While we’re all enjoying the game either in person or in the comfort of our own homes this season, make sure you give the man his due and tip your hat or lift a toast in his honor. Without his many contributions to a game he loved and to which he devoted his life, the product you see would be vastly different.

As far as his inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, that time has long since passed.

I’ll just use the words of deceased NFL owner Wellington Mara when he said, “I don’t think I know a person who has done more for this league than Modell.”

Sorry Ray, I loved your speech, but you dropped the ball on this one.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun