Thom Loverro: Is Ravens' Ray Lewis a statuesque presence in Baltimore?

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Sports,NFL,Ravens,Thom Loverro

NEW ORLEANS

If you are tired of the deification of Ray Lewis as the Baltimore Ravens prepare to face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII, you haven't seen anything yet.

How about a statue honoring perhaps one of the most polarizing players in all sports -- a player whose story cannot be told without the unsolved murders of two men in a fight 13 years ago, one that Lewis was very much a part of at the Super Bowl in Atlanta?

Statues are all the rage these days. They're the 21st century bobbleheads. Everybody gets one. One of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might be erected here in New Orleans before the week is out -- with a sign that says, "Pigeons welcome."

In Baltimore, for years there were two sports statues: Babe Ruth outside the entrance to Camden Yards and Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas outside the north side of M&T Bank Stadium. It has become a tradition for Ravens fans to touch the statue as they enter the stadium.

Two years ago, sports statues in Baltimore started multiplying like rabbits. A statue of Brooks Robinson was put up on a downtown plaza near Camden Yards.

Then the Orioles had a statue orgy this summer, unveiling figures honoring Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken and another for Brooks Robinson at Camden Yards.

The next such honor in Baltimore likely will be for the future Hall of Fame Ravens linebacker, who will be playing his last game Sunday.

"I do believe there will be a statue of Ray in Baltimore," said John Maroon, president of Maroon PR, based in Columbia, Md. "He is one of the greatest linebackers in history and spent his entire career with the Ravens. He is an iconic figure in our city, and I wouldn't be surprised if plans were already in the works."

For the world outside Baltimore, the notion of a statue honoring Lewis may be horrific to some after that incident outside an Atlanta nightclub 13 years ago.

Lewis initially was charged with murder but then agreed to testify for the prosecution. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges. The two men who were put on trial for the murders were acquitted as the prosecution's case fell apart, leaving many questions still unanswered about Lewis' role in the fight.

Those questions are not asked in Baltimore, where Lewis could take his place next to Unitas as bookend statues entering the stadium.

"Not only do I think there should be a statue of Ray Lewis at M&T Bank Stadium, I think there is a perfect spot directly across from Johnny Unitas' statue," said Stan Charles, publisher of Press Box, a sports newspaper and website in Baltimore.

Like Ray Lewis himself, what that statue will represent will be polarizing.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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