Stoned Again: Ricky Williams Returning to the NFL

“No, I don’t do drugs anymore, the late comedian Bill Hicks confessed. “But when I did, I had a hell of a good time. I didn’t rip off my friends, smash up my car, empty the bank account or spend any time in jail. OK,” he paused, “so where’s my commercial?”

Anyway, Bill got me thinking about Ricky Williams, the ex-running back who unexpectedly retired from football last season. If you don’t follow sports he’s the NFL’s latest poster child for bad behavior. No, he didn’t murder his ex-wife, attack a fan in the stands or molest Nicollette Sheriden. What Ricky did was much, much worse.
He smoked pot. And then had the chutzpah not to feel bad about it.

Late night TV comedians, sports columnists, fans and ex-teammates attacked or ridiculed him, making dumb jokes about him being a coward, a weirdo, a mush-brained pothead loser. And do you know what? Ricky doesn’t care. Neither do I.

I always liked Ricky Williams because, unlike most jocks playing professional sports, I thought he was a geek born in a football player’s body. Painfully shy, intellectually curious and indifferent to how famous he was, Ricky was an oddity in the smashmouth, testosterone-fueled world of the NFL.

Still, even the people who hated Ricky had to admit that he was damned good. Football is a brutal sport that beats the shit out of the players (well, duh). As Emmitt Smith said, “it’s like being in a dozen car accidents every Sunday.” Ricky played hard, making himself a millionaire one yard at a time.

When he made enough money, Ricky did what most of us would do if we could: he quit a job that he hated. (C’mon, let’s be realistic, OK? How many guys who won the lottery are going to show up for work at Dunkin Donuts the next day?)

So Ricky’s in the news againâÂ?¦and this time he’s not a punchline.
Ricky’s agent announced that his client will return to the Miami Dolphins. “Ricky’s made the decision he wants to play again,” Leigh Steinberg said.

Get those earplugs ready, folks. Why? Because all those people who was screaming before about how Ricky betrayed the Dolphins, let down his teammates and stabbed Dave Wannstedt in the back are going to be screaming louder now.

And who cares? Football is the only sport where the contracts aren’t guaranteed. So a player, even a future Hall of Famer, can be dumped at any time because of an injury, being too old or the salary cap numbers don’t add up. Asking Ricky to be loyal to the NFL is foolish, especially when his loyalty wouldn’t be returned. Ricky’s talent is the only coin he has and he’s spending it very intelligently. As long as Ricky keeps scoring touchdowns, he’ll always have a job.

What’s really driving people crazy, I think, is Ricky’s refusal to believe the “Reefer Madness” propaganda shoved down our throats. He’s not a drug-obsessed burnout eating out of trash cans. He’s a successful NFL running back who, like any other rich celebrity, can freely smoke pot because he can afford good lawyers that will keep him out of jail.

What Ricky illustrates is the cruel inequities of the drug laws in this country that equates marijuana with heroin, wastes millions of dollars every year and turns guys barely making minimum-wage caught smoking a joint into criminals.

SoâÂ?¦where’s Ricky’s commercial?

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