These days, we're inclined to be cynical especially about matters related to pro sports but Ray Lewis' emotional address to the media about Art Modell Thursday looked and sounded unmistakably heartfelt.
As Mike Preston wrote for The Baltimore Sun, Modell had a history of sticking by his players, a loyalty that perhaps didn't always serve him well in a business or football sense. That loyalty was never more evident than how he stood by Lewis in 2000.
How many NFL owners would have appeared in court in a bond hearing for a player implicated in a double murder? Modell did. You have to figure that many owners would have totally distanced the club from such a player.
But that wasn't Modell. He believed in Lewis. And when his All-Pro linebacker was ready to return to the Ravens after ending up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor of obstruction of justice, Lewis was welcomed back and embraced by the team. That attitude had to come from the top.
Suppose Modell had been standoffish or just decided to cut Lewis loose? How different would Lewis' life be right now? Maybe he'd still be appearing in a commercial for a video game with a well-known actor. Maybe he'd still be popping up on the Internet giving rousing pep talks to various teams.
Or maybe not. Maybe his career would have ended then and there.
But that wasn't Modell's way. He stuck by Lewis. And Lewis delivered a Super Bowl for his