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Ray Lewis once again dances around issue of Super Bowl XXXIV murders

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03: CBS sports TV analyst Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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When attending the Super Bowl, it’s difficult to watch much/any of the pregame coverage.

There’s a specific portion of the Super Bowl XLVII pregame coverage that was difficult to watch for other reasons.

As the network televising the game, CBS had an opportunity to conduct a one-on-one interview of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. And the assignment predictably went to Shannon Sharpe. Not only was Sharpe a former teammate of Ray’s in Baltimore, but Sharpe also was the teammate who loudly defended Lewis in the days preceding the Super Bowl they won together, a year after Lewis was accused of double murder following Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta.

CBS knew that the network would be killed (no pun intended) if Sharpe avoided the murder case entirely. So Sharpe raised it, but he also slow-pitched a softball question on the subject.

Said Sharpe, “A couple of weeks ago, the family of the incident in 2000 -- and I’m paraphrasing -- but it goes something like this: ‘While Ray Lewis is being celebrated by millions, two men tragically and brutally died in Atlanta. Ray Lewis knows more than Ray Lewis ever shared.’”

The obvious question should have been, “Ray, what happened that night?” But that’s where Sharpe flipped an underhand eephus to Ray. Instead of being direct on the still-unknown issue of what transpired, Sharpe gave Lewis an open-ended question that allowed the subject of the interview to dictate its content.

“What would you like to say to the families?” Sharpe asked.

“It’s simple, you know,” Lewis said. “God has never made a mistake. That’s just who He is, you see? And if our system -- this is the sad thing about our system -- if our system took the time to really investigate what happened 13 years ago, maybe they would have got to the bottom-line truth. But the saddest thing ever was that a man looked me in my face and told me, ‘We know you didn’t do this, but you’re going down for it anyway.’” (Actually, something much closer to “the saddest thing ever” is the two dead guys.)

“To the family, if you knew -- if you really knew -- the way God works, He don’t use people who commits anything like that for His glory,” Lewis said. “No way. It’s the total opposite.”

Whoa. Time out. Is Lewis saying that the fact that he went on to win a pair of Super Bowls and to become a great football player means he necessarily didn’t do anything wrong? That bad men never rise to positions of prominence and public praise?

Ray needs to read a few history books. Or maybe just one. For centuries, murderers and maniacs have become kings and emperors. They have enjoyed plenty of glory, to the detriment of the objectives of God.

Ray also incorrectly assumes that glory bestowed by man equates to true glory from God. Time and again, I wrestle with the notion that God cares about the outcome of a football game. Maybe I’m too much of a cynic.

Or maybe I’m simply on constant watch for false prophets while covering a sport that could easily give rise to them.

Consider Matthew 7:20-23. "[Y]ou will know the false prophets by what they do. Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’ Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!’”

I’m not saying Ray is a false prophet. I’m just saying that his suggestion that success in football constitutes proof of his innocence is one of the absolute strangest things I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

Sharpe then pointed out that Lewis paid a financial settlement to both families.

“The one thing that I said that, because my name was used the wrong way, money is the last thing I’m worrying about,” Lewis said. “But if money will help those kids out -- and not just those kids -- any kid that I can help, any family that I can support, I support. So don’t just take that family and say, ‘I gave money to that family.’ Because I’ve gave money to thousands of families, time and time again, just to find a different way to help someone through a rough time.”

Ray’s words do what the lawyers in the crowd would call “opening the door.” In all fairness, he should now authorize the release of every pleading, order, deposition transcript, and other document created via the litigation that resulted in what he’s now describing as an act of charity. If he paid those families simply out of a sense of altruism that has prompted him to help “thousands” of other families, why did he have to be sued and questioned under oath and pursued through a court process before he agreed to pay?

And how much did he pay?

And what did he say under oath when asked the question his friend and former teammate failed to pose: “Ray, what happened that night?”

Ray, what happened that night?

To his credit, Boomer Esiason of CBS expressed instant skepticism after the interview concluded. “It’s a complex legacy that we’re talking about here,” Boomer said. “This is a guy that was involved --"

“How’s it complex?” Sharpe said, interrupting Esiason with a clearly defensive tone.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” Boomer said. “Because he was involved in a double murder. And I’m not so sure that he gave us all the answer that we were looking for. He knows what went on there. And he can obviously just come out and say it. He doesn’t want to say it. He paid off the families. I get all that. That’s fine. But that doesn’t take away from who he is as a football player. And I appreciate you going down there and asking him that direct question. I’m not so sure I buy the answer.”

We don’t buy it, either. But the question wasn’t nearly as direct as it should have been.

Ray, what happened that night?

Now that football season is over, we’ve got plenty of time to wait for an answer.