Was Lewis right? Mason says no, crime statistics say maybe

May 24, 2011|By Matt Vensel

The controversial comments made over the weekend by Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis about how a canceled season would cause a spike in crime have overshadowed Tuesday’s informal player workouts at Towson University. His claim continues to be a talker out in the blogosphere and among terrestrial media outlets.

“Do this research if we don't have a season -- watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game," Lewis said in an interview withESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.

ESPN’s John Clayton agrees that football is a vital part of society, but he thinks all that crime talk is a bit of an exaggeration. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King isn’t “buying what Lewis is selling.” Pete Prisco ofCBS Sports also criticized the legendary linebacker, and he wants to know if there is data to back up the claim.

Well, Baltimore Sun crime reporter Justin Fenton has compiled crime data from football Sundays via Baltimore public records. And though he warned that his analysis was “highly unscientific,” he said that Lewis might be on to something.

“As it turns out, the Ravens' bye week was the Sunday during the NFL season that recorded the highest number of crimes,” Fenton wrote in a lengthy post on The Baltimore Sun’s Baltimore Crime Beat blog. “The following week, when the team resumed play against the Dolphins, was all quiet, relatively speaking.”

Again pointing out that his initial research isn’t exactly bulletproof -- no pun intended -- Fenton said his “other attempts to measure this issue seem to cast doubt on whether there's a correlation.”

“This analysis fails to take into account weather, school schedules, police deployments, the fact that the team played some of its games on Mondays or Thursdays, and a whole host of other mitigating factors," he wrote. "I told you it was unscientific."

Fenton did dig up another nugget worth noting, though: During the 1982 players strike, there was a month-by-month increase in homicides in Baltimore with murders rising from 33 to 44.

Was Fenton’s analysis conclusive? No.

Was it interesting? No doubt.

That brings us back to Tuesday’s Ravens workout organized by wide receiver Derrick Mason. You can count the outspoken Mason among the many who found themselves furiously scratching their heads after hearing what Lewis had to say about fans turning to crime to pass the time during the lockout.

 “Ray's a passionate guy, and of anybody I respect him as a football player and a person,” Mason said. “But I'm not naive or arrogant enough to think what I do is going to affect John Doe or Mary Sue when they are at home or out there walking the street. I'm not going to be that arrogant. … My life and what I do doesn't necessarily affect someone else on an everyday basis. They might get disappointed because we're not playing on Sunday, but for them to go out and change their whole lifestyle based on what I do. That's pure arrogance, I think. I'm not going to think that."

Want to hear Mason’s response -- in which he called Lewis “arrogant” three times? Check out this video. Mason was calm and respectful of his teammate, but he was very critical nonetheless.

That being said, I wouldn’t sweat a potential rift between Lewis and Mason. I'm sure they will hug it or something.

But this hot topic will simmer for a while, so get ready for more debate about what Lewis had to say this past weekend.

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