Ricky Williams Flips The Script

By Anthony Harris
Updated: December 22, 2004

Ricky Williams

NEW YORK, NY.—First there was the Esquire magazine feature article and now 60 Minutes.

Ricky Williams has spoken to the world about his rationale for “surprisingly” leaving the National Football League.

For some it may be a feeling of why bother reading about or listening to someone who walked out on his teammates to smoke marijuana.

However, it could be an opportunity to learn something about contradictions.

Back when the 27-year old former Miami Dolphins running back announced he was retiring I applauded his stance at leaving one of the profession’s most punishing positions when he still could walk

In the early August article, published on this site, I used the unfortunate example of the degenerative knee injury former Denver Broncos back Terrell Davis sustained. It was a physical setback he was never able to fully recover from and subsequently forced his retirement at age 29.

I also spoke of how I thought Eddie George, who had just been released by the Tennessee Titans and was on the verge of signing with the Dallas Cowboys, would be wise to heed Ricky’s example based on the wear and tear to his body from the extreme workload he had already carried in his then eight year career.

As much as we may want to gripe about the amount of money athletes make it may be important to consider that in the case of the NFL injuries (sometimes career ending) are commonplace. In fact, it’s not if but when.

Furthermore, their salaries are not guaranteed and if there is an owner willing to pay eight figures for, in the case of the NFL, a guaranteed signing bonus then who am I to begrudge the athlete since the owner is certainly making several times more than that offer.

And trust me management will waste no time releasing a player if a younger one is at his position or he loses it due to injury.

So, Ricky just got to the Dolphins before they got to him, and again, based on his workload in Miami – nearly 800 carries in just two seasons – he was headed for more of the same until his body couldn’t take it.

When many claim that his retirement led to the club’s demise this season, who’s to say that he might not have been injured during the course of this campaign?

Now, regarding the aforementioned print and broadcast stories on Ricky’s “revelation”.

In both presentations we learned that among other things the former 1999 Heisman trophy winner is traveling, furthering his understanding of the vegetarian lifestyle by studying Ayurveda (the holistic system of medicine from India), living in northern California – without such necessary essentials as a radio or television – and yes, smoking marijuana.

No, I am not going to state a position on the use of cannabis.

Instead, I will only ask that we look at the duplicitous nature of many when you contrast it with tobacco, alcohol and eating habits.

It was particularly amusing when Mike Wallace asked about his use of weed and wondered if it led to additional drug use.

Williams responded by saying that occasionally he has sweets.

Wallace, clearly expecting to hear cocaine, crack, LSD or heroine had to a double take, but that’s right he was referring to the sweets that have refined and processed sugars thereby causing a host of other health maladies that we have to do a bit of independent research about.

Can anyone say contradictions?

Matter of fact, the recent revelations about the hazards regarding several of the over-the-counter drugs should also be a part of that discussion, but those are “legal”.

The interviews revealed that Ricky was honest about what he had done in the past and that he quite simply could not accept the league’s random drug testing.

Williams understood why his teammates were upset at his decision and offered to apologize if that was what they wanted, but he unequivocally understood that it was his choice and he had that right.

According to reports he is in debt because he walked away from the allure of football, but Ricky’s happy not chasing a fleeting career while being shackled to living up to someone else’s expectations or maintaining a certain lifestyle, and seduced by the drug of fame.

The former University of Texas star is on the kind of journey that many in the mainstream can’t or refuse to understand.

If we can let’s look past the marijuana part of this story, especially since these days we are hearing that there are several medicinal uses for the herb, and try to see that this appears to be someone in search of much more.

Remember, many thought that once the ruling came down that he had to repay the Dolphins he would detox and be on the next plane to Miami, but he wasn’t.

Also recall that we are quite possibly in the throws of a scandal involving athletes who would rather risk kidney, liver, brain and who knows what else damage just to hit long home runs, run track faster or be stronger on the football field.

In fact, the performance enhancing drug phenomenon is well entrenched at the high school level.

I’ll admit that Ricky is certainly an enigma, and one day he may indeed return, but for now let’s deal with where this story is currently at.