What’s worse: dredging up an unpleasant part of the past, or pretending that it doesn’t exist?
Anna Burns Welker, the wife of New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker, has come under a torrent of criticism for writing a bitter Facebook post after the Patriots loss on Sunday that cited the troubled past of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. And without doubt, her post, which referenced past criminal charges against Lewis, struck many fans as a cheap shot at a time when a more gracious sentiment would have been more appropriate. She has sensibly apologized for it.
Yet the fury that her post provoked opened a window onto the see-no-evil psychology of some sports fans. The facts are the facts: Lewis was charged with murder in 2000, and he ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice in exchange for testifying against two other men. The case is — legitimately — something sports historians will take into account when they assess his career.
That doesn’t mean fans can’t cheer Lewis’s on-field accomplishments or accept that he’s now turned his life around. But the degree to which Lewis’s record has been downplayed as he retires this year is notable. Welker’s greatest sin, apparently, is that she even brought up the criminal case. She might have been ungracious, but that’s still a healthier attitude for the sports world than denial.