I Believe in Ray Rice
When I bought this shirt, I did it for two reasons. First, it was an amazing play, one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen on a field. But I also did it because of the guy Ray had shown himself to be up to that point (he gave the shirt sale proceeds to charity, for example). I’ve always been hesitant to buy player-specific shirts because I learned a long time ago that athletes are just as human as the rest of us. Fans are so ready to put them on a pedestal–forgetting that they are only men and women–and then get so angry when flaws are revealed. I never thought Ray Rice was a saint, but I was saddened by what happened in Atlantic City all the same. After watching his press conference last week, though, I feel like I can be a fan of his again.
Several things struck me about the video, about the way Ray handled himself. When he comes out, one of the first things he says is “I wrote some notes”, but then he never looks at them. In fact, he soon puts them away and spends 6 full minutes talking very clearly and with little repetition. Have you ever tried to do that? To speak extemporaneously about something for that long? 6 minutes is an eternity on any topic, much less something so serious. As I watched, I saw someone who had thought long and deeply about the incident and its ramifications. Perhaps more importantly, I also saw someone who continues to think about it, and it was his discussion of the future that impressed me most.
Of course he apologized. All athletes do that when they get caught screwing up. I believed this one, however, because of what he said about his daughter. Less than a minute in, Ray said that “one day she’s going to know the power of Google.” That’s a profound point, and one which I think a lot of parents should think about these days, indeed a lot of people. All of us are leaving online trails, records of what we have done and said, and even if you delete the post, it’s never really gone. Think I’m wrong? Have a look at The Wayback Machine. Even private posts can get screen shotted and saved by someone you’ve upset or hurt. Now, multiply that concern by some huge number and you will realize where I think Rice is with this statement. There’s no hiding this incident from his daughter. It will always be there in the either, easy for her to find, complete with all the speculation and vitriol which has swirled around this story. In this, I feel sorry for people like Rice who have their lives recorded and scrutinized constantly.
Think about one of your worst mistakes, about a time you lost your head and hurt some you care about. Now, imagine if it was talked about by more than the people involved, by more than just your friends and family. Imagine millions of complete strangers were weighing judgement on you and posting things about this mistake online, to be recorded for years, accessible with a few finger swipes. Hold in your mind an image of that terrible moment in your life. Now, put it on television again and again and again. When I do that, then look at this situation with Ray and his wife, it makes me take a deep breath and thank God the same hasn’t been done to me. 20 years ago, had this happened, there’s a chance that Ray and his wife would be able to deal with it themselves and then bury it; they wouldn’t have had to talk about it with their daughter. There are plenty of families with secrets like that. That’s not the world we live in, though, and I’m impressed with how readily Rice acknowledged that fact.
The other thing that won me over is what he’s not doing, not yet. Around 2:40 in the video, Ray says “You’ve got to fix yourself before you can go out there and help others…me and my wife, when the time is right, we will go out there and help as many people as we can, to go out there and speak out against domestic violence.” He then talks about counseling and calls it “not one of them things you go to and things just automatically get better.” Grammar not withstanding, this is an important point. We are evolutionary creatures who change as a result of our experiences. This is especially true when we fail, and how we react to failure, to mistakes, says a lot about us. President Lincoln said “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” Had Ray come out last week and announced the “Ray & Janay Fight to Stop Domestic Abuse” it would have been disingenuous at best. Relationship issues like this take a long time to get resolved, even with counseling, and the struggle of that is all over Ray’s face in the video. Everything I have learned about Rice leads me to believe that his natural inclination is to help people less fortunate than him because he was that way once. If that’s true, putting the brakes on that instinct and acknowledging the need to repair the damage he caused first is an impressive display of maturity. He’s only 27, don’t forget.
In the end, I am putting on my Hey Diddle Diddle shirt today because it’s the right thing to do. It’s hard for me to look at this situation and not think about the beginning of John 8. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees drag an adulterous woman before Jesus, wanting Him to say “Yes! She’s evil! Stone her!” Instead, He says “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Even if Ray weren’t a Raven (and let’s be honest, I’m a big Homer), I’m not going to throw stones at him just because his flaws are publicly broadcast and mine are not. More to the point, I can believe in him because I think he’s making the right decision, handling his mistake in the right way. The last thing Jesus says to the woman in the story, after the “righteous” have given up and gone home is this: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” After watching Ray’s press conference, I believe that’s what he’s trying to do. He knows he screwed up, knows he might screw up again in the future, but seems to be working hard to be a better man, to overcome his flaws. It would have been too convenient, to pat, to say “this will never happen again.” Instead, Ray said “The thing I realized is that I’m not perfect. I have a lot of things to work on.” There’s humility in that statement that I think we can all appreciate, no matter what team you cheer for.