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Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis. (Associated Press)<br>

Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis. (Associated Press)

Gazzolo: Lewis still dances, but let’s not forget past

Last Modified: Tuesday, January 08, 2013 6:39 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

As the Ray Lewis celebration raged on this past weekend, two names seemed lost in the shuffle.

Hardly a mention was made of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar.

In fact, as Lewis played out the rest of his Hall of Fame career with the Baltimore Ravens, few times have Baker and Lollar ever been mentioned at all.

They are not coaches or teammates of Lewis. They have nothing to do with his play on the field.

Thus, the world of sports has all but forgotten about the two men who had their own close encounter with Ray Lewis and a few of his buddies.

While Lewis has seemed to have learned from the meeting with the two, the duo were never able to recover.

Baker and Lollar were the two young men who got into an altercation with Lewis and his companions outside an Atlanta bar after the Super Bowl in 2000.

After the two sides had fought, Baker and Lollar were dead and Lewis was considered a suspect.

It is easy to forget a past that nobody really talks about, especially when it occurred 13 years ago on a dark street in the middle of the night. But, let’s at least remember the entire Ray Lewis story when we put his bust in Canton.

Since that night in Atlanta, Lewis has gone on to accomplish great things. Just a year later he was the MVP of his own Super Bowl.

He has, without question, been a great football player, a great leader of his team and maybe even become a better human being for his community.

By all accounts, Lewis has made the most of his second chance.

We must also remember that Baker and Lollar never got their second chances.

Initially after the incident, Lewis was of no help to police. He was hardly playing the role of a model citizen as his football future and even personal freedom were in question.

Being MVP of anything was not likely on Lewis’ mind when police were questioning him about that night.

In the end, Lewis, a man who never gives an inch on the field, cut the deal of his life off it.

In exchange for not having murder charges brought against him, Lewis pleaded guilty of a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and testified against two of his running mates on that night, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting. While Lewis would get probation, Oakley and Sweeting would be acquitted of murder.

What really happened that night is still a giant question. Police never recovered the white suit Lewis was wearing during the brawl.

Lewis’ troubles came on the heels of O.J. Simpson, during a time when athletes and celebrities were not given the benefits of reasonable doubt. Fair or unfair, Lewis was convicted in the court of public opinion of more than he was ever punished for.

Now all that is forgotten. Today, it seems easier to get forgiveness than approval. Second chances are handed out three or four times to some, many of whom play sports for our pleasure.

Hearing the roars for Lewis and the accolades for his achievements, you have to admire what he has done with his life. Clearly he turned everything around from that night in Atlanta and made the most of his opportunities.

That is a great thing, one to be proud of and for us to honor. It is an amazing transformation of a man who has become a hero to many.

I just don’t think we should forget the names of the two men who never got their chance at redemption.

•••

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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