Ray Lewis, Tiger Woods, Danica Patrick and Other Sports Observations of the Week

Robert HoffmanCorrespondent IMay 23, 2011

Ray Lewis, Tiger Woods, Danica Patrick and Other Sports Observations of the Week

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    With the NFL lockout about to reach 70 days, it occurred to me it might be time to reach a broader audience in regards to sports. Therefore, on a weekly basis, I'll cover a variety of topics impacting the far reaches of the sports world.

    Some of the commentary will be serious yet a lot will be sarcastic, which seems to be how points often get across in this business.

    To distinguish this column from others, I want to look at the positive elements in the sports world as well as the negative. So often it’s only the negative that makes the news.

    No sports topic is off-limits and let me know what I am missing.

    Without further ado…here are my top five observations from this week in sports.

1. Say What, Ray?

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    Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis found a different way to make the news recently by sitting down with Sal Palantonio of ESPN and making some interesting comments about the population's behavior during the lockout.

    His principal comments that caused a stir were, "Do this research if we don't have a season. Watch how much evil, which we call crime, picks up if we don't have a season. There is nothing else to do."

    Now it should be noted that in context, Lewis was talking at least partially about everyday people who rely so heavily on football for entertainment and their livelihoods (e.g., the stadium workers, etc.) and not players.

    Here is the thing. I don't necessarily disagree with the general premise of what Lewis had to say. But, what does that say about society?

    Look, if the general population, in the absence of football, has nothing better to do than commit violent acts maybe the apocalypse really did occur on Saturday and I missed it.

    Regardless, I can think of three important things that both the average Joe and the million dollar athlete should do if there is no football:

    1. Connect with family.

    I don't remember ever hearing someone say, "I really regret spending time with my six-year-old son or daughter last night." There might have been aggravating, frustrating moments, but would you trade the experience?

    You want to know why people constant warn you to enjoy the time with your loved ones, especially children? It's because the time really does fly. How many times do you hear about the burden of professional athletes who have to be away from their families? Well, now is the time to address that, guys.

    2. Improve yourself, starting with an alternate vocation and/or education.

    Okay, as an educator I am biased. But, here are the facts.

    Depending on whether an NFL player makes an opening day roster as a rookie, the average NFL career is somewhere between three to six years.

    Even a six-year NFL shelf life means that you better figure out what are going to do for the vast majority of your professional life because it’s not going to be football.

    As for the average Joe, last time I checked the economy was in shambles, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the 2002 American Community Survey, 52.7 percent of Americans have some college education, but only 27.2 percent have actually obtained a degree. Recent figures are only better by a percentage point or two. Start by just taking a course or two. Most colleges have accelerated courses and programs that should interest you.

    3. Help other people.

    Kudos to Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel. According to a tweet from Jason La Canfora, he built a house for a single mom in Liberty City this past weekend.

    One thing notable about this is that Samuel didn't just cut a check; he actually spent the time and labored to help somebody else. Most of us don't have Samuel's financial resources, but we more likely have the physical ability and yes, time, to make a difference in someone else's life.

    Which leads me to the next observation.

2. J.T. Thomas, a Rookie You Want to Succeed

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    I have no affiliation to or special affinity for the University of West Virginia or the Chicago Bears, but I will be openly rooting former Mountaineer and Bears rookie linebacker, J.T. Thomas.

    In short, Thomas recently took 14-year-old Joslyn Levell to her end of the school year formal dance. Levell has the condition spina bifida and is bound to a wheelchair most of the time.

    Thomas has a seven-year-old brother with autism who happened to ride the same school bus as Levell. The bus driver made some introductions and Levell relayed to Thomas how she had been turned down by several boys for the dance. Thomas immediately, with the help of his stepmother, reached out to Levell's parents for permission to escort her to the dance. Permission was granted and a memorable night was had by both Levell and Thomas.

    Thomas is a sixth-round pick, folks. He has probably got less than a 50-50 chance of making an NFL roster. He didn't do this for publicity or to build on fame and fortune. He did it because it was the right thing to do and one that he was happy to do.

    Please click here for the full story by Sam Wyche.

3. Tiger's Impact Is Clear

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    Go figure, I never really understood the impact of Tiger Woods until this past weekend when I thought about golf for, oh, about three seconds.

    As in, "Oh, they are playing the Colonial this week." Then I changed the channel.

    See, I'll still occasionally tune in for the Masters or the U.S. Open, but without Tiger playing or playing very poorly, you couldn't get me to watch a regular golf tournament unless I was getting a part of the purse.

    Even then, there might have to be some negotiation.

    Whatever you want to say about how Tiger acts in his personal life, and if you are one to cast stones you could hurl some boulders, his importance to the sports visibility is undeniable.

    That's why the news Sunday night that Tiger has fallen out of golf's top 10 for the first time since 1997 is another in a series of reminders of just how far Woods has fallen and how the game is desperate for new marketable stars.

    Certainly, title sponsors contribute a lot of money to any television package that the PGA tour and its television partners agree upon.

    However, with the existing six-year network television deals set to expire at the end of 2012, tour officials have their work cut out for them in getting more dollars out of the likes of NBC or CBS.

4. Simona Is In, Danica Is out

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    Let's start with the good news first.

    Indy racing driver Simona de Silvestro responded from a horrifying crash on Thursday, during which she suffered second-degree burns on both of her hands, by coming back on Saturday and earning the 24th and last spot on the first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.

    The image of her hands being completely bandaged as she prepared to get in the car will stay with me as one of courage and determination.

    On the other hand, Danica Patrick, who is supposed to be the face of women in auto-racing, reportedly received a smattering of boos and general disinterest by spectators after she failed to qualify on Saturday and then posted much better times in qualifying only 26th for the field late Sunday.

    Whatever the reason for the boos, be it underachievement, splitting her time between Indy and NASCAR, a litany of excuse-making or a sometimes abrasive personality, the enthusiastic circus-like atmosphere of Danica has subsided. Until, she wins again, people are wondering why they should even pay attention.

5. No, No, Noah

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    Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of Joakim Noah.

    Personally, I wonder how in all of his time playing basketball, he couldn't come up with a better foul shot.

    I also think he is a bit of cry-baby when he instigates much of the physical play in the paint.

    But that's not why I am calling him to task here. During the first quarter of Sunday's 96-85 loss to the Miami Heat, Noah directed an anti-gay slur to a fan.

    To his credit, Noah has quickly and repeatedly apologized. However, that's not enough here. When the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant lost his cool and directed the same slur to a referee, he was fined $100,000.

    Certainly $100,000 is a lot of money, but let's be honest. Last season, Bryant's basketball salary was estimated to be around $21 million dollars, which works out to approximately $250,000 per game. In other words, Bryant didn't even lose an entire game check. Noah, who reportedly makes around $12 million, might miss 100k a little bit more, but is it really a deterrent to future inappropriate behavior?

    The answer is simply no.

    Suspend Noah for a pivotal Game 4 in Miami. That sends the message that you just can't buy out inappropriate behavior and insensitive commentary.