What they're saying about the Super Bowl

Super Bowl Xxxv

January 23, 2001

A sampling of reports and columns about the Ravens and the Super Bowl from around the country:

Dave Hyde, South Florida Sun-Sentinel: When it was over, when he was set free, Joseph Sweeting returned home to Miami last summer and, in a fit of fury, wrote a rap song that had built up inside him during the trial. The words just spilled out, he says. The raw emotion, too. He calls it "The Ray Lewis Song."

It could have been heard on a CD outside the Dolphins' stadium before a Baltimore Ravens game in September. It would headline Sweeting's introduction at an Orlando music club in October. It even brought him an invitation to perform in a Tampa club this Super Bowl week, though the promoter probably would have called anyway because of who Sweeting is, what Lewis is doing and how their sort-of reunion would draw the flame of attention.

This is the world we live in. This is the sports page we have become. These are the parallel lives that Sweeting and Lewis share today in their separate universes.

Once, they were linked through friendship, meeting in a Miami bar in the mid-1990s, Sweeting, the rap artist, and Lewis, the University of Miami football player. They became good friends, then evidently great ones. Sweeting says he traveled to every Baltimore home game in 1999 and stayed in Lewis' home before each one.

"How close can two friends be?" Sweeting says. "What does it mean when he's comfortable in my house, I'm comfortable in his, he knows my children and I know his children? That's how close we were."

Now they're close only in the manner they're tied to a Super Bowl party last year, a violent fight, two dead bodies and a national trial in which Lewis ended up testifying against Sweeting. Said he had a knife. Said he was dragged behind a tree during the fight.

They both went free. They haven't talked since - at least not in person.

"You must play for the Rats, because I heard how you squealed," are some of the printable lyrics from Sweeting's song.

It probes Lewis' manhood. It questions his honesty. It raps how a third defendant, Richard Oakley, "should have stabbed ya." It says, "If I knew what I know now, it'd have been three bodies."

Now, hearing the words read back to him, asked if such violence exists in him, Sweeting says from his Miami home, "I know I can't go out there and retaliate against this man. I'd really be letting him win if I did that. So I expressed myself the way I know how - through my art. That's all it is. A song."

You may find this Super Bowl story without any redeeming value. But this is not a story about values. Or lessons. Or especially conclusions.

This is a story about two people who were part of the kind of irrational, unsolved night that takes place on our streets and in our cities on a regular basis. The only reason this double murder raised headlines is because a football player was involved.

Lewis, you might think, has learned from his night, has grown from it and has become a better person from it. At least that's what has been said and written - as if being a great linebacker again should redeem his name. ...

Sweeting, you might think, is one of those hardened street toughs who doesn't care what people think of him or how the world discusses him, especially if he can make a buck by selling a song off this bloody episode.

But, again, the truth is more complicated. ...

What about the Orlando club that introduced his rap group, Da Underground, by mentioning the song and his part in the Lewis trial? "I told the promoter never to introduce me that way again," Sweeting said.

And the Tampa club that invited him to perform Super Bowl week? "I told them, `No,' " he said. "I know what they'd do - me, him, the Super Bowl, the trial. I didn't want any of that. It was a turnoff. I don't want to be a part of anything like that. ...

"I don't wish [Lewis] no harm. I don't. I don't. But it'd be kind of crazy for me to overlook this man that could've had me sitting on somebody's death row or prison for the rest of my life. He knows what he did wasn't right. He knows what he said wasn't right. That's something he has to live with." ...

Sweeting says he will be at the Super Bowl again this year. Asked whether part of him wants to stay away, considering last year, he answers: "I'm from the heart of the black community. I grew up right in the ghetto. Every day or every other day, something negative might happen here.

"But you know from living here that everybody or everything isn't negative. That's all people see is the negativity. You don't let an incident drive you sour."

David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel: It's the storm before the calm. Please stock up on batteries, bottled water and grains of salt.

Those items always come in handy during Super Bowl week when the goal is to merely survive until Sunday without finding out whether Tony Siragusa wears boxers or briefs. File that under TMI - Too Much Information.

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