I like to think I'm respectful of the game.
My loyalty is with the Pittsburgh Steelers and always will be and all that. In cheering for the Steelers, I have a fan's hatred for several teams, probably most notably in my lifetime the Baltimore Ravens.
I have a variety of reasons for my disdain of those dirty bastards. The adulation of a coach and a quarterback combination who seem like the equivalent of the older and younger brothers you played against in high school who would complain about rules violations in pick-up hoops games. The way the color purple looks off the sickeningly green artificial surface at Empty Bank Stadium.
And of course, Ray Lewis.
I wrote an article a while back about the retirement of Hines Ward, and how his altercations and toughness really spurred the Steelers/Ravens rivalry into something of its own; disconnected from the franchise the Ravens used to be. Lewis is the Ravens' version of that contribution. Obviously done in a different kind of way, Lewis is only just a little less hated in Pittsburgh than Ward is in Baltimore (and we love the fact they hate us more than we hate them).
that being said, when news broke today that Lewis's torn triceps will end his season, I'm taken over by a twinge of disappointment.
The Steelers and the Ravens will play their first game against each other without either Hines Ward or Ray Lewis since 1998.
I won't even reveal how old I was in 1998, but rest assured, I couldn't get into the places I would frequent often later in life, screaming at Ray Lewis on TV while cheering each of Ward's blocks.
It dawned on me I've hated Ray Lewis for so long, I don't even know what the Steelers/Ravens rivalry is without him. I think another Ravens fan may have felt the same way about Ward when he retired (they hate him more than I hate Lewis though, I'm sure. Ward won more and more recently).
That being said, I feel the respectful thing for me to do as a fan is to wish Lewis a speedy recovery. The game I enjoy so much is not the same without him there.