What Is the Meaning of Football?

"A lot of people think happiness comes from the outside things. Happiness arises when you have contentment. Contentment comes from the inside, just learning to be content ... whether I was in the Himalayas, at school, [or] out there on the field."

-- Ricky Williams upon his return to the Miami Dolphins last week

During his one-year retirement from football, Ricky Williams' search for himself led to the top of a snowy Himalayan mountain. There, the running back found a monastery. Williams learned of the holy place from his agent, Leigh Steinberg, who'd mentioned that former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino had trekked there to get advice about retirement years ago. Inside the grand monastery, he found the Great Guru sitting in a large Natuzzi leather recliner.

RW: Great Guru, I have come to the top of the mountain to humbly ask for guidance.

GG [putting down his cell phone and muting his 60-inch plasma TV]: I recognize the visage before me. You are the famous player of American football, no?

RW: Yes, my name is Ricky Williams.

GG: Of course. I expected to see you here. Please sit down. So, is this place high enough for you? [laughs] I kid, I kid.

RW: Ha ha. You're making a joke about my marijuana use. Hysterical.

GG: I always try to start my cosmic consultations with a little shtick. On to business. First off, I've already consulted with The Great Consciousness of the World to discover your essence.

RW: Oh, you mean you punched me up on Google?

GG [slightly embarrassed]: Well, yes, but that's beside the point. What is it you seek?

RW: I only want to know how to become content and happy, Master. The more fame and fortune I got, the more unhappy I seemed to be. I won the Heisman Trophy and made millions in the NFL. Still, I was afraid of people. I thought I was just really shy, but they said I suffer from something called social anxiety disorder.

GG: Social anxiety disorder? What pharmaceutical marketing genius came up with that one?

RW: I don't know, but they gave me a prescription for a drug called Paxil, which I liked so much that I became the spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline, the company that makes it.

GG: Yes. According to The Great Consciousness of the World, you said of your introduction to Paxil: "I had this immediate warmth come over me, this feeling that I can get better. That there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I'm not just weird. I'm not just aloof. I'm not crazy. I'm not a flake." You know what? I get the same way after three Grey Goose martinis.

RW: You drink vodka?

GG: What? You think gurus don't need to relax? Give me a frickin' break here.

RW: Sorry. Anyway, then I started smoking weed, and man did I love it. As I told the press, it was ten times better than Paxil.

GG: So what was the problem?

RW: The NFL tests for it, and I got caught a couple of times. The league fined me $650,000.

GG: Ouch. Just for smoking a little mohasky?

RW: Yes, Great Guru. And I was about to be suspended from the league. That's the real reason I left South Florida and embarked on this arduous journey.

GG: Wait a second. You ran for more than 3,000 yards in two seasons in the NFL ... while you were high?

RW [a smile creeping over his face]: Yeah.

GG: Suspend you? They should give you some kind of special award. But what business does the NFL have testing players for THC, anyway? Steroids I understand. But a little bud never helped anybody upend a linebacker after the initial burst through the line.

RW: You got that right. But now I don't know what to do. I want to play football, but I also want to smoke some hoychka. I can't get enough of it. [joyously breaks out into song] "I smoke two joints in the morning/I smoke two joints at night/I smoke two joints in the afternoon/it makes me feel alright/I smoke two joints before I smoke two joints --"

GG: Please, that's enough. I'd tell you to keep your day job if you had one. But you know what? This NFL nonsense makes me mad as hell! Those league execs are dirty bastards! I'd like to grab them by their 'nads and twist them until they pop off! Then I'd pick them up off the floor and stuff them --

RW: Whoa, man. That's not cool. You're killing my buzz.

GG [voice suddenly rising with rage]: Silence! Do you realize what your absence did to the Dolphins? They were hoping for a Super Bowl and instead they went 4-12. Four and twelve! It's the worst season in our -- er, I mean, their -- entire history. Do you have any idea what effect that's had on revenues?

RW: I don't care about the Dolphins, Great Guru. I just want to know what I should do.

GG: Get off the ganja and go back on Paxil. Or try Prozac, Zoloft, Seroxat, Aropax, Ativan, Trazolan, Buspirone, Clonazepam, Xanax, Valium, anything that comes with a frickin' prescription. Paul Tagliabue doesn't care if you eat those pills until your brain turns to oatmeal!

RW: But --

GG: But nothing. Just stop smoking the skunk. You don't really think you have a choice, do you? You haven't forgotten the small matter of, oh, 8.6 million dollars that you owe the Dolphins. Only I can forgive that debt. [voice turns sinister, Darth Vader-like] Your destiny is with me, Ricky. Think of how powerful you and I can be. Join me again and we'll rule the NFL!

RW: Oh my God, that isn't... is that a wig? And a fake beard? And that's... that's a stock ticker over there in the corner! [with sheer horror] It can't be. Mr. Huizenga? Wayne Huizenga, is that you?

GG [in a conversational tone]: Of course it's me. Who else could afford to buy this monastery? Buddhists are hell to negotiate with, but I went ahead and bought the whole mountain. Just had to grease a few wheels in the Nepalese government. Now I'm working a deal to get some luxury condos built up here. The property value is gonna triple. [his voice turns sinister again] Now listen to me.

RW: No!

GG: I have something to tell you.

RW: Leave me alone!

GG [lording over him]: Rick, I am your owner.

RW [crumpling into a fetal position]: This isn't happening. This isn't happening.

GG: You will report back to the Dolphins in July. You will be loaded on prescription medication. You will tell them all that you're glad to be back... that, in fact, you are "content" and "happy." You will even pretend you feel remorse for what you did to me and my team.

RW: I won't do it! I swear I won't do it!

GG: And you'll fill up the seats! People love you, Ricky. And the people who hate you love you even more. You give them something to talk about. Sports columnists make fools out of themselves moralizing about you. Can they do that with, say, Peyton Manning? No, because Manning has the personality of a vending machine. He's like Dan Marino without the piercing wit. Terrell Owens? An idiotic ego with hands. They're all fools, Ricky. Fools! But not you. You're unpredictable. You're real. You're destructive. You're brilliant. You're an all-time great back. And you're all mine.

RW: I'm outta here.

GG: Go ahead and run, Ricky. Run. I'll see you at camp.

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman