Ricky Williams has a lot to say.
His story, powerfully constructed in Run Ricky Run — part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series — also says a lot about our coverage of athletes and our desire to reduce them to a soundbite or punchline.
I hope you DVR and watch the show yourself, but a few moments stick out:
After Williams’ first drug suspension, retirement, and soul-searching trip around the world, Williams returned to the Dolphins. He broke his shoulder in his first game back, then was suspended again. The reaction was harsh.
Skip Bayless, on PTI: “He has never loved football!”
Jay Mariotti on Around the Horn: “Ricky Williams is a disgrace to humanity!”
The hour-long documentary showed how human Williams is. His early struggles included a history of child abuse, and his social anxiety disorder coming out in New Orleans. Williams is unfailingly honest, and the camera catches some personal and
even heartbreaking moments. The movie didn’t shortchange his faults as a father and partner. By the end, Williams achieved something closer to peace.
Afters Williams’ last suspension, the NFL ordered he undergo six months of psychotherapy at McClean, a psychiatric hospital in Boston. It seemed to do him a lot of good.
My brother has spent time at the same hospital, at least in part for the same diagnosis. (Borderline personality disorder.) It struck me then how Williams’ story is shared by so many.
He underwent a long, deeply personal struggle, but this one played out on a national stage. And like so many others, he had to lose everything, hit bottom, and even hurt the ones he loved before he could run to daylight.