After much searching, R. Lewis is The Man among men on the Ravens

September 01, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

I'M NOT SURE when waiting for Deion became an existential experience, but it did create enough idle time at the Ravens' training complex yesterday to ponder a very important philosophical question.

Who's The Man?

Of course, everybody knows that Ray Lewis has been The Man around here for a long time, but the arrival of Deion Sanders - whom Lewis refers to as his big brother - has reopened the debate, and Lewis didn't do anything to clarify the matter when he referred to "Prime Time" as The Man yesterday afternoon.

"You can't be The Man all the time," Lewis said, "but he's always going to be The Man."

Say what?

Forgive me for being a little confused. If Ray is the unquestioned leader of the team, you would think he has to be The Man, but it obviously isn't that simple.

Chris McAlister is the designated franchise player, so - at least contractually - he's The Man. And, if McAlister isn't The Man and Ray is saying somebody else is The Man, is it possible that 2,000-yard running back Jamal Lewis or Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden is really The Man?

Fortunately, Todd Heap is too young to be The Man or my head might explode.

"I think you'll find out when you ask Deion who The Man is," said linebacker Cornell Brown, who used to be The Man at Virginia Tech, but is in mourning about the Hokies right now. "I bet he'll say it's the guy who said he's The Man. But the real man is the guy who signs the checks."

Steve Bisciotti is The Man?

"No," said Bisciotti, "I don't even have a checkbook. Ozzie is the man."

Club president Dick Cass and senior vice president Kevin Byrne agreed, but general manager Ozzie Newsome, through a club spokesman, denied he is The Man, so I went back to the locker room and posed the question to a few more players.

"I don't know," said linebacker Adalius Thomas, "I'm just trying to be the man sitting next to The Man."

Thomas and Brown, by the way, have agreed to join my ad hoc Page Two Advisory Committee, so you'll be hearing a lot from their little corner of the locker room this year. Brown has been carrying me for a couple of weeks now.

"The question becomes, `How many of The Men can you have?'" Thomas said. "Maybe everybody's The Man."

So far, the only thing I'm sure of is that I'm not The Man. (I'm not even The Man in my own house, and I'm the only male currently residing there.) But things got a little clearer when I talked to McAlister, the reluctant franchise player.

"Ray's The Man," he said. "I'm just a guy in this puzzle."

I also was able to rule out Ogden, not because of any lack of leadership capability, but because he is from UCLA and - where I come from - nobody from UCLA can ever be The Man.

Then it struck me that Jamal Lewis is way too busy dealing with The Man right now to worry about being The Man, which brought the whole thing back to Ray and Deion.

"They both are The Man, in their own individual ways," said defensive back Ed Reed, perhaps preparing for a career in Democratic politics. "We have a team full of guys who are The Man, but truly this is Ray's team."

Sanders did not complete his physical in time to make a grand media entrance in Owings Mills yesterday - that's scheduled for this afternoon - but he was nice enough to straighten the whole thing out in an interview on Sporting News Radio.

"My big-mouth baby brother, he's The Man, and let's not get that mistaken," Sanders said. "He's The Man by far."

Former presidential candidate Howard Dean delivered the keynote address Monday night, but obviously not at the Republican National Convention. Dean parodied himself during the intro for Monday Night Football with a mock stump speech. How the mighty have fallen.

Final thought: Somebody asked me yesterday if I thought that Michael Phelps would have any media staying power now that the Olympic Games are over. I don't see why not. The guy won eight medals. John Kerry's only got four and we've been talking about them for months.

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

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