Ricky Williams et al

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Ricky Williams et al

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

Everybody's talking about the monster contract Roger Clemens just signed with the Houston Astros -- $22 million pro-rated for this season alone. Since he's starting late, he'll get about $12 mil of that, and the truth is, he'll more than likely prove himself to be worth every penny of it.

But the contract inked this week that caught my eye was that of Ricky Williams, the could-have-been, should-have-been superstar running back of the NFL. Williams will play for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. His deal? One year for $240,000. That's money most of us would celebrate, but for one of the most talented players to burst out of the backfield in recent memory, it's chicken feed.

The reason Errick Lynne Williams has headed north of the border for the upcoming gridiron season is that he has just been busted, for the fourth time, for substance abuse. Not performance enhancing substances, by the way. No, Ricky has been quite forthright about his fondness for recreational drugs. But that's just the category assigned marijuana by the League, recreational. According to Ricky, hemp is his spiritual companion. Two years ago, just before the 2004 training camp, Ricky announced he was going to forego the season because playing was interfering with his quest for the meaning of life, and also interfering with his marijuana consumption, which was lighting his path toward discovering his inner truth, God, and the meaning of life. The executives, coaches, and players down at the Miami Dolphins just may be as open-minded as the next football gang, but they didn't take it well when their star dropped on them with little time to regroup. Dolphins head coach Dave Wannstedt lost his job, basically over the Williams no-show, so he particularly wasn't all that inspired by Ricky's quest.

For that breach of contract in '04, a federal court ruled that Ricky owes the Dolphins $8.6 million. He's got to get busy making some bucks and this Canadian contract isn't going to go a long way toward erasing that debt. On his way to Canada, Ricky gave the press a statement. Well, half of a statement. He told them his quest was successful. He boldly stated he's been fortunate enough to have found it, to have found the purpose of life. But that was just a tease. He refused to elaborate, saying only ---If I tell it, you guys will think I'm crazy and won't understand.---

Come on, Ricky, don't underestimate us. Surely the meaning of life will weigh in for us above such silliness as playing football. We just want to hear it with our own ears, that's all. We want to know that the reason you've smoked pot, been banned from the league, wound up in serious debt, and are forced to play wherever you can make some dough, even though the thrill is gone for you, that it's all been because you've reached enlightenment, not because you're wasting your best playing years and will dearly regret it down the road.

Now, the other drug news this week (besides Lance Armstrong being cleared of cheating accusations from his first Tour de France victory in 1999) has been the Madrid raid of three apartments used by European cycling teams. Police seized a large volume of steroids, erythropoietin, hormones and close to 100 bags of frozen blood, along with equipment for tampering with blood. We have evidently been extremely na--ve in believing the sport of cycling was scrubbed close to clean after the police raids of the late ---90's and the subsequent vigilant testing for EPO.

We may know for sure that Ricky Williams is a pot head. But no doubt pot, if anything, slows a body down. While it may be a shame that Ricky violates the clear recreational drug rules of the NFL, is being banned from the League for smoking marijuana just punishment, compared to Tour de France cyclists literally changing their blood chemistries?

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad