Ray Lewis and ESPN have officially closed their long-rumored deal, with Lewis set to be a football fixture on the network. Starting Aug. 1, Lewis will join ESPN for an entire slate of commentating activity:
• "Monday Night Countdown," where he'll travel to the site of each week's "Monday Night Football" game;
• "Sunday NFL Countdown," where he'll chime in on the football issues of the day;
• "SportsCenter" and ESPN Radio segments.
This is not exactly news; Lewis and ESPN have danced around the idea for months now, ever since Lewis announced his retirement. There's no debating the fact that Lewis loves to talk (and to hear himself talk). But he carries considerable baggage from the extent of his connections to a street fight in Atlanta in 2000 that left two men dead; as this year's Super Bowl demonstrated, a vocal percentage of fans will never forgive or forget. Lewis has maintained that he considers the matter closed.
On a purely occupational level, it will be interesting to see if Lewis is able to transcend the usual routine of the jock-turned-commentator, unable to mesh effectively into an existing announcing team and/or unwilling to criticize former teammates and opponents. Will Lewis meld into the existing frameworks of the shows, or will he bend them to his will? We'll find out soon enough.