- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ray Lewis is worried about the NFL lockout tearing at our social fabric. That’s the thing about lockouts. They give you time — maybe too much time — to think Big Thoughts.

In an interview the other day with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, the Baltimore Ravens’ ball-carrier-bashing linebacker said, “Do this research if we don’t have a season — watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up if you take away our game. There’s nothing else to do.”

You can see his point. I myself have wondered on many occasions: Should I settle into this La-Z-Boy and watch “Monday Night Football,” or should I, oh, go knock over a liquor store? Let’s face it, if you don’t give the American people their NFL fix, there’s a good chance they’ll lose their moral bearings. It’s hanging by a very thin thread, America is, and that thread is … Ray Lewis‘ chin strap?

“There’s too many people that live through us,” Ray told Sal. “Yeah, walk in the streets the way I walk the streets — and I’m not talking about the people you see all the time.”

Put it this way: If research does show that crime increases significantly when fans are deprived of pro football, then I’m all in favor of nationalizing the NFL. I mean, there must be some provision of the Homeland Security Act that would permit that. Congress might even want to consider legislation that would outlaw bye weeks. You can’t be too careful.

It’s funny. When the players struck in 1982 and ‘87, I don’t remember anybody talking about a big uptick in nefarious activities. Our cities, if I recall, didn’t descend into lawlessness while labor and management haggled about the dental plan. And believe me, if this country was ever going to descend into lawlessness, it would have been when the league was taken over by replacement players, and the Redskins’ secondary was getting torched for a touchdown by a receiver named Edwin Lovelady.

On the contrary, people went about their lives, perhaps even invested themselves more in college — or even high school — ball. You certainly didn’t see much looting, and even less pillaging. Back me up on this, those of you who were around back then: Was there a single national leader who called a press conference and said, “Arm yourselves, America, this strike could last another month”?

Of course, this was before fantasy football had become such an obsession. Maybe that’s what Lewis is concerned about, why he envisions mayhem on an apocalyptic scale. Americans might be able withstand the loss of the NFL, but the loss of their fantasy leagues could very well push them over the edge — kind of like that character in “Office Space,” Stapler Guy.

Then again, maybe Lewis has taken leave of his senses. Joblessness, as we all know, can do strange things to a person. Besides, Lewis hardly is the only player behaving this way. Not long after the lockout, CIncinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco tried out with a Major League Soccer team. When that didn’t work out, he jumped on a bull and explored that career possibility. His “ride” lasted 1.5 seconds — or about as long as one of Albert Haynesworth’s conditioning runs.

(What do you figure is next for Ocho, roller derby? Beach volleyball? Celebrity shuffleboard?)

Then there’s John Beck’s recent media tour — in the wake of Mike Shanahan’s suggestion that Beck might be in the running for the Redskins’ quarterback job. What was that all about? Sure, if these labor negotiations drag on, Beck could end up being — essentially by default — the QB this season (assuming there is one). But does anybody honestly believe he’s Shanahan’s preferred starter?

Yet there he was, giving an interview to every news outlet but Al Jazeera. If he’d kept it up much longer — who knows? — he might have gotten booked for Oprah’s finale.

Players are going so stir-crazy that they’re starting to gather for voluntary workouts like the ones a bunch of Redskins participated in this week. So perhaps Lewis‘ remarks can be chalked up to temporary insanity (or, if the jury won’t buy that, too many head-to-head collisions). At any rate, it’s doubtful, even if the season gets wiped out, that we’ll need to put bars on our windows, never mind declare martial law. I’ll keep a helmet handy, though, just in case.

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