I had a lovely supper with my wife and all I said was, "That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah." Man to be stoned in The Life of Brian.

Everybody Must Get Stoned

 

           Free Ricky.  That was my fantasy football team name.  Named after one of my favorite human beings of all time.  Maybe the most fascinating NFL player to ever play, for whatever that’s worth.  There isn’t much competition.  There have been eccentrics aplenty, but nobody like Ricky. 

           Ricky doesn’t like to talk about himself too much.  One reason is because he’s on a higher plane than most people that might be watching the ESPN broadcast to hear what he has to say.  They don’t understand.  All they can muster is that he’s a waste of talent.  Unfortunately in America we’ve reached the point where most people can’t fathom a human being who is more interested in pursuing a higher calling than money.  They feel he owes it to some nebulous, football loving god to maximize his talent.  To showcase his gift.  To let the world see him run.  Run Ricky run.  He who is greedy as sin, cast the first stone.  Ricky chose, and still chooses, to try and understand things on a deeper level.  Think left and think right.  Think low and think high.  Oh the things you can think up if only you try.

           Ricky's life has been a dichotomy. He was born to a father who molested him. He has a social disorder that manifests itself as a fear of crowds and people.   Ricky smokes pot like people take prescription meds.  It helps him get through the day.  Unfortunately, while most prescription drugs are more toxic than marijuana, it’s illegal to smoke it and was a part of the NFL’s drug testing policy even though it is not a performance enhancer. He was also born with the ability to run with a football.  Whether that qualifies as an amazing “gift” is certainly debatable.  To Ricky it wasn’t.  To that slow, small, overweight guy who always dreamed of being a pro athlete, it was.  With his talent he entered the conversation as the greatest college football player of all-time.   Everyone wanted to talk to him.  Everyone wanted to be around him.  And he had an emotional problem that made him nervous around people.  It’s like a free ride when you’re already late.  It’s like winning the lottery and dying the next day.  It’s like a death row pardon two minutes too late. (Not one minute because that might be a different story).  Isn’t it ironic Alanis that Ricky was blessed with something that he felt was a curse?  Ricky didn’t like being interviewed by a room of reporters prying into why a coach called a running play without a timeout left or why he fumbled the ball.  In addition to being nervous about it, it seemed so inconsequential to him.  You could tell he wanted to say, “I don’t know and frankly I don’t care.  But what are your thoughts on Buddha, Berman?”  Before you even dare to pick up a stone, try walking a mile in his shoes.  If you still decide to cast a stone he’ll run you down barefoot in about a minute.  And then he’ll tell you that he forgives you for you know not of what you speak.

           I love football as much as anyone, but in the grand scheme of things it is simply an aversion.  It’s like being whisked away by a book that is being written in real time.  Something to talk about besides that cranky old boss or that bad news from your doctor. It’s entertainment.  We know that a lot of people view it as life and death.  That’s okay.  They’re kind of losers, but Ricky’s not.  The world really needs ditch diggers too. Wait, I just cast a stone.  I apologize.  

          At the beginning of the 2006 season, Your Humble Narrator (and Dolphins’ fan #1) was looking for the Dolphins to challenge for the Super Bowl.  Ricky had just concluded the most productive back to back seasons for a running back in Dolphins history.  In 2002 he had the second greatest season for a running back ever.  The Dolphins had no passing game and handed the ball to Ricky on seemingly every play.  Opposing defenses knew it and sent everyone after him.  He ran for 1,853 yards at a ridiculous 4.8 yards per carry.  The only running back to have a better season was Earl Campbell in 1979.  Or was it 1980 or 1978?  Anyway, besides Earl Campbell nobody has ever been that good with apologies to Walter Payton and O.J. Simpson.  He finished his career as one of only 26 players in NFL history with over 10,000 yards.  That is in spite of not playing for 3 seasons during his prime.  He went longer between 1,000 yard seasons than any player in NFL history.  He was the greatest running back in modern college football history.  He left as college football’s all-time leading rusher and owned twenty NCAA rushing records.  He averaged an insane 6.2 yards per carry on his way to 6,592 yards and 75 touchdowns. 

          The dichotomy that is Ricky Williams was never more evident than in the 1999 NFL draft.  He was one of the great prospects of all-time and should have been a consensus number one overall pick.  The Saints (Bog-love Mike Ditka) told the teams ahead of them they would trade their entire draft to move up from pick number 12 and select Ricky Williams.  None of the top four teams would trade!  Can you imagine that in this day and age?  Most owners would have offered their granddaughter’s left arm to haul in that draft prize.  But the first three teams wanted quarterbacks so the Browns selected Tim Couch, the Eagles Donovan McNabb and the Bengals Akili Smith.  The Colts felt Edgerrin James was the best running back prospect so they selected him with the 4th pick.   For the 5th pick in the draft the Saints elected to trade away not only the entirety of their 1999 draft picks (Ricky remains the only player in NFL history to have been traded for an entire year’s worth of draft picks), but also traded away a 1st and 3rd round pick in 2000.   Talk about pressure.  No player has ever been saddled with more pressure than Ricky Williams and no player was less constituted to handle it than him.  If this had been T.O. or Ochocinco they would have thought they had died and gone to heaven.  But for Ricky it was hell.  He couldn’t do enough to live up to the expectations but he never said more than a few words and ran with a fury rarely seen in the NFL.

           When Ricky announced he was leaving the NFL and going on a walkabout in a foreign land, you would have thought the Dolphins number one fan would have been up in arms wanting to fight that loser.  That waster of talent.  Instead, I thought it was the second most admirable thing I had ever seen (Pat Tillman’s leaving the NFL for the military is number one) in my sports watching years.   It’s comical how upset everyone was that he was shatting upon his “God-given” talent like it was some obligation he had to Bog or Dolphins’ fans to choose the career path they felt he was destined for.   He realized, like the growing number of intelligent people we have on planet earth, that our obligation is to search for whatever it is we want to search for, so long as we make the world a bit better on the way. 

           Ricky Williams is going to somehow make his way in the world and get comfortable in his own skin…and make the world a better place.  We have the utmost confidence in him.  In the meantime he will continue to smoke pot and dodge those stones with the same aplomb he dodged NFL tacklers.  He should not feel so all alone.  Everybody must get stoned.