Ninjames' Note: ESPN, in recent years (read: the last ten or so), has really fallen off from the quality coverage and passion for sports they used to be the model of. One of their saving graces, however, has been their 30 for 30 films series. 30 for 30 takes 30 stories from the last thirty years of sports and examines them in a deep documentary that actually has little to do with ESPN--perhaps that's why they're so good. Each one is done by a different director, and each one, so far, has had it's own unique personality and always tries to tell another spin on such a story that may not be known. Throughout the offseason I'll be putting a post up reviewing and detailing each of these. It's not strictly 49ers news but it's sports-related, and throughout the offseason that's the least of what you folks should be asking for.
Run Ricky Run is the 12th installment of the 30 for 30 series and premiered on April 27th of this year, drawing .972 million viewers for the premier. I'm starting with this one because I watched it earlier. You may know of Ricky Williams, you may know that he plays for the Miami Dolphins and that, for his age, he's a fairly productive running back. You may also know he's violated the league's substance abuse policy on more than one occasion, for marijuana usage. Do you know much else? Because there is certainly much, much more to know about this man.
Sean Pamphilon's direction details everything about Ricky, from his college days, the team that drafted him, his retiring from football, his marijuana usage, his possible abuse from his father at a young age and just gives as deep a look into a mind that is almost impossible to truly figure out.
Ricky retired from football in lieu of a four game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Right then and there, in his prime, just before the season began, he retired, and moved to Australia, where he lived in a 7-dollars-a-day tent. Most everyone assumed this guy left just so he could smoke more pot.
What begin was a largely confusing soul-search for Ricky. He studied in an ayurveda school, where he found he wanted to treat people, cure them and make their body heal. For someone who made a living destroying his own body and creating contact with people, it was an odd choice, be he excelled fast. Eventually, Ricky made his way back to football, but he broke his shoulder and was suspended again. He was hurt on a play in which another player seemed to intentionally step on his back and his shoulder. The announcers of the game could he seen laughing at him. Laughing at this guy getting injured.
But he was suspended again, and many, many people hated Ricky Williams. He's not the best human being on the planet, obviously. The documentary shows his short-comings as a friend and father. Not being around his kids, being unreliable, things of that nature. But nobody in the media knew that. Everyone hated Ricky because he was suspended for the drug use.
"He has never loved football!" is something Skip Bayless said. Jay Mariotti said that Ricky Williams was a "disgrace to humanity." The documentary, at that point, does nothing to dispute the claim. It does a very good job of keeping balance and just presenting information you may not know.
"I used marijuana to deal with my imperfections, and it was illegal. But I still don't identify with being an addict."
At one point, he acknowledges that he did indeed smoke too much. Ricky did a lot more soul searching, and in the end he seems more like a man who has found peace more than anything. The documentary shows a lot of Ricky in what feels like "real" statements. Some truly personal statements and questions are answered and visited throughout the documentary, and it was a seriously moving watch.
I'm jumping around right now, but you get the basic jist of things. As far as where I stand, I am on the sympathetic side of the matter. I think things were blown way out of proportion, and while he wasn't really a good, model citizen when it came to his family and friends, I am happy, very happy, to know that he came out of it all for the better and realized his love for the game of football, while gaining direction for when he does actually retire. I think if you want to know whether or not you'll like more of these documentaries, Run Ricky Run is a great place to start. You can buy it from Amazon here, or you can catch it on TV again on July 11th on ESPN when it replays. I'm also told it will be in Walmart stores at some point later this month, around the 20th.