Ray Lewis made his post retirement debut as an analyst last night on ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown, and proved he could dominate a show in the same way he did the league. Lewis is being rightly positioned as the next Tom Jackson. He’s knowledge of today’s game is indisputable, and he oozes respect. By the end of this NFL season Lewis could evolve into football’s version of Charles Barkley.
The respect aspect of Lewis is one of those remarkable tools only former athletes are blessed with. Numerous times during the show all stars from both the Skins and the Eagles were filmed embracing and talking up Lewis. How many times have you seen RGIII give Ed Werder a bear hug? Players still seek out Lewis for approval as if he is still the NFL’s godfather. If Ray Lewis was the godfather than that makes Ed Reed his Michael Corleone, and Tony Siragusa his Clemenza.
The entire flow of the show tilted towards Lewis. He even discussed with finesse the court troubles that plagued him early in his career during a discussion of player’s with off field issues. This was Lewis meshing his open book attitude to the lens of the media. It works because we want our analysts to feel authentic. When Lewis says he worried about a specific player we know he’s speaking from experience. That and the squirrel dance can move mountains.
ESPN deployed the trademark Lewis squirrel dance wherever it could to draft off the energy he brought to the show. We had shots of viewers doing their own dance, and Adam Schefter throwing down his own version as part of “C’mon Man!” There isn’t a network short of the WWE who launch a new member of the team better than ESPN. Lewis has arrived.