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Point/Counterpoint: What is the better storyline of Super Bowl week?

By Scott Bernier and Anokh Palakurthi
On January 30, 2013

Scott: Even though the Harbaugh brothers will meet for an epic encounter in sibling rivalry history on Super Bowl Sunday, an even more intriguing and unforeseeable storyline has also dominated sports media airwaves long before this matchup was conceived, and that is of the legendary Ray Lewis' imminent retirement after this season. Ray Lewis is known as the stalwart of the Baltimore Ravens' defense; a 240 lb. behemoth in his 17th season with the team as well as the last remaining member of Baltimore's only other Super Bowl winning team following the 2000 season.
Anokh: Okay, but Ray Lewis isn't even the best player on the Baltimore Ravens defense. They played a good portion of the year without him and did just fine. Guys like Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs have had larger impacts on their team actually getting to the Super Bowl. Hell, Lewis is less valuable this year than guys on the other end of the ball - Joe Flacco, who has given Baltimore something they've thirsted for nearly all of last decade: a quarterback they can trust to ride with for a Super Bowl appearance. Torrey Smith has had a really good year too, highlighted by his destruction of Champ Bailey in the playoffs. Ray Lewis isn't even the best Ray on his team - what about Ray Rice? I understand it's Lewis' last year and everything, but he is certainly not anything close to a stalwart right now and has nowhere of the amount of impact a head coach has. Give me a break. I know everyone's sick of hearing about the Super Baugh, Harbowl and all the other Haurible (sorry, I had to) puns, but it's important to look at two relatively new coaches and how they've revolutionized how to run an NFL team,as shown by them turning around their respective franchises. And as overstated as this point is, how about the fact that they are brothers? This is a story that is somewhat worth talking about - not some tale about a washed up player that's already had his time in the limelight.
Scott: But it's not about this season. Lewis has been a model of physical dominance, persistence and determination on the field with a strong sense of passion for the game as demonstrated by his infamous "squirrel dance" performed prior to every game. His role as a mentor throughout the NFL is extremely understated, as he has been a guiding light for many young players, including current Ravens running back Ray Rice. After the Ravens wild double overtime win over the Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional playoff, it was well-documented that Peyton Manning, despite a costly interception that helped set up the game-winning field goal to defeat his team, waited around after Lewis' postgame conference to speak with him.
Anokh: You're talking about generalities right now. We get it; he is a team leader and all that jazz. What about tangible evidence? Did he teach Rice how to not fumble the ball during the playoffs? Did he suddenly teach Flacco how to take his time in the pocket and read a defense? All the guys I already mentioned earlier do just as much leading as Lewis. Maybe a lot of them don't get the same type of universal respect as Lewis, but that's because of what Lewis has done throughout his career: dominate as one of the best linebackers ever. I'll give you that, but what does his career have to do with a Super Bowl now, especially seeing that he basically is a minor part of the Ravens defense?
Scott: Again, you're missing the point. Not many players are afforded this kind of universal respect throughout the league, yet Lewis is one of them and this development is interesting, considering his checkered past. On Jan. 31, 2000 during Super Bowl festivities in Atlanta, Lewis and two of his friends were involved in an altercation that left two men dead and the trio each charged with murder and aggravated assault. A dense fog still swirls around that night as the white suit Lewis wore has never surfaced and the blood of one of the deceased was found in Lewis' limousine. Lewis accepted a plea deal to drop the murder charges down to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice in exchange for his testimony against his two companions also involved in the fight, though they were eventually were acquitted of all criminal wrongdoing. Despite hitting rock bottom publicly and gaining an unshakeable "murderer" perception, Lewis re-built his image through his play and an outspoken faith in a higher power. His career statistics paint him as one of the best linebackers and overall defensive players in history; a few of these accolades include 13 Pro Bowl selections, Super Bowl XXXV MVP, NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and the only member of the 40 sack/30 interception club.
Anokh: See, I don't understand how what you're saying here has any relevance to it being a story people care about now. I also never denied that Lewis is one of the best linebackers of our time - probably the best middle linebacker I have ever seen. But this is an old story that shouldn't have relevance right now, especially since it was one of the biggest storylines heading into the Ravens' first Super Bowl victory. That's like saying if the Patriots won the Super Bowl that the main story was Tom Brady winning, despite being the 199th pick of the NFL draft. People know his story already and know that he supposedly redeemed himself. Why tell the same tale?
Scott:: It's a tale worth telling because that's not all he came back from. His type of play can yield injuries, none more serious than a complete tear of his right triceps on Oct. 15, 2012 seemingly ending his season and possibly his career. However, Lewis amazingly persevered despite a projected 6-12 month recovery period and returned to play Jan. 6 of this year in the Wild Card match-up with the Indianapolis Colts, but not before stirring the pot and motivation up in his locker room one last time, declaring that he was retiring after the season. Of course, Lewis is prone to controversy and this week speculation has surfaced of Lewis using deer antler spray, which contains IGF-1, a substance prohibited by the NFL that stimulates a quicker recovery period from injury. He denies any use of the substance while in the midst of preparing for the conclusion to his Hall of Fame career. Some may argue he's already been here before and was an MVP, he doesn't need the spotlight, let alone deserve it considering the murky past of this maniacal, yet phenomenal player. But he's hanging up his pads in order to watch his kids grow, to watch his son Ray Lewis III play at his alma mater Miami University this upcoming fall. The timing is right and regardless of personal opinions and biases, we all enjoy seeing a champion's career end on top.
Anokh: Even if you want to believe that Lewis never touched any illegal substances (which is opening a whole can of worms...), this doesn't beat the Harbaugh's. Throughout sports, we've always seen the stories of veteran players finishing out their careers with a ring, riding out into the sunlight. Michael Strahan, Jerome Bettis, Michael Jordan (No, I don't count his stint with the Wizards as a real thing), etc. When have we ever seen two brothers face against each other in the same Super Bowl? This has never happened before in NFL history and is a story that may or may not jokingly have everything that makes one sexy: family drama, jealousy, brotherly love, and so on. As NFL fans, we now have our very own version of the Williams' sisters - only coaches. And who is to say that they won't keep facing each other in the Super Bowl and lay the groundwork for more football coaching families? A story - no, a rivalry like this, one that may just be in its infancy, is worth telling. Not a Paul Bunyan like legend of a star about to fade away. It's time for a new NFL with new figures to lead the way.  

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