by Matt Higgins
Going to Pot
will be high times in Miami again real soon if running back
Ricky Williams returns to the Dolphins. The team most despised
by Bills fans fell far in 2004 (4-12) after Williams retired
rather than face a one-year suspension for testing positive
for marijuana—a third time. Williams simply walked away
from a multi-million dollar contract before last season,
then traveled to India and Australia, and studied holistic
medicine in California.
Williams wants to return to Miami, according to his agent
Leigh Steinberg. Probably something to do with a judge’s
ruling that Williams owes the Dolphins $8.6 million for
breach of contract. In order to be reinstated, however,
he will have to prove he’s cannabis-free and serve a four-game
assigned to interview Williams after New Orleans traded
him to Miami prior to the 2002 season. Some hanger-on who
played video games with NFL players was supposed to set
it up, but weeks went by and all he provided were excuses.
My editor threatened to cancel the story, and the fixer
finally admitted that the NFL star was in a “deep drug haze.”
What? I had a good laugh imagining Williams in a
stupor somewhere, and wrote him off. But a few days later
he called and gave a thoughtful interview. Then during his
first season in Miami, he rushed for 1,853 yards and 16
a related matter, Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio
Smith has been suspended for the entire 2005 season for
violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy a third time.
On April 21, Smith was busted at Minneapolis-St. Paul International
Airport with vials of dried urine and “The Original Whizzinator”
in his luggage. He said it belonged to his “cousin,” but
the NFL was skeptical given Smith’s history, which includes
getting booted out of the University of Tennessee for testing
positive for weed. All of which is a blow to the Vikes;
Smith led the team in rushing (544 yards) during 2004 even
though he missed four games for violating the NFL’s, you
guessed it, drug policy.
the moral of this story is that although there is ample
anecdotal evidence that pot makes people stupid, it may
not necessarily affect productivity. The ganja fuss seems
unwarranted, however, since it’s definitely not a performance-enhancing
drug, unless you’re a musician.
Bills recently unveiled a third “throwback” jersey and helmet
that recalls the team’s 1964-65 season. The old-school design
is a 40th anniversary celebration of the Bills
AFL Championship, and more important a ploy to crowbar more
dollars from die-hard fans who will wear this sort of thing
to games and dress-down Fridays. The Sabres, too, have a
plan to return to the gold, blue, and white that defined
the team from 1970 to 1996. That is, if the NHL ever resumes.
Of course the Sabres marketing department has mucked up
its throwback scheme by not waiting long enough before switching.
After all, who’s going to buy an old-school sweater when,
as everyone who’s been to HSBC Arena lately already knows,
most die hard fans are still walking around in their original
Mike Foligno jerseys.
Bobblehead Very Agreeable
season record 13,220 fans turned out at Dunn Tire Park June
5 for a Bisons’ game, and 4,000 of the luckiest were awarded
a free Tim Russert bobblehead doll. The South Buffalo native,
NBC News Washington Bureau Chief, and host of “Meet The
Press”, threw out the game’s first pitch, and by all accounts
sang a stirring “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the
seventh-inning stretch. The bobblehead likeness feature
a dry erase board that reads, “Buffalo, Buffalo, Buffalo,”
and is amazingly lifelike, even nodding obsequiously when
George Bush lies and says all records related to his service
in the National Guard had been released in 2000.
Games Pre-empted by Spelling Bee
was bad enough that the NHL missed the entire 2004-05 season
due to a lockout over terms of a new collective bargaining
agreement. But then the cash-strapped league lost a $60
million TV deal with ESPN for broadcast rights during the
2005-06 season. And now big-time sponsors such as Ford,
Molson Coors, and Sony have threatened to pull advertising
the ESPN deal, each team was to receive $2 million. The
Sabres won’t miss the money, according to managing partner
Larry Quinn. "ESPN (pulling out of negotiations) didn't
register with me at all,” he told The Buffalo
News. “I'm not worried about it.
bucks was $2 million a team. If we're worried about $2 million
a team, we're looking at it completely the wrong way,” Quinn
continued. “I think we should be looking at a national TV
contract of $400 million, not $60 million. I think we can
get there. I really do."
is big talk from a confused man. Wasn’t the whole lockout
about a small chunk of change, Quinn? I mean, how much does
each team stand to save under the salary cap structures
being bandied about right now – an average of $10 million?
Worse, cable TV doesn’t want your league at $60 million,
Quinn! Which other network would ever offer you $400 million?
the terminally myopic leadership of both the players’ union
and the NHL recognize that they are at a critical stage
of negotiations. As a result, bargaining has evolved and
a deal could happen soon – in time to save next season.
Not, however, in time to nab $60 million or to prevent usurpation
on ESPN by grade-school spelling bees. How do you spell
* * *
Discovery: Boxing Causes Brain Damage
Mesi’s brain scan is like a Rorschach Ink Test – some see
death; some see brain damage; and Mesi and his old man see
a future of fame and riches, as Baby Joe becomes heavyweight
champ of the world.
On June 9, Mesi got caught with a shot he
didn’t see coming – the Nevada State Athletic Commission
unanimously rejected his appeal to have the suspension of
his boxing license lifted. One official told Mesi, “It is
the job of your handlers and your trainers to protect you.
Maybe, at the end of the day, it’s the job of this commission
to throw in the towel for you when nobody else will.” Mesi,
however, is not done fighting. He is willing to risk death
for a title shot, and penury in order to pay uber attorney
Paul Cambria and five expensive yes-doctors to appeal the
The background: Mesi suffered three brain
bleeds during a March 2004 fight with Vasiliy Jirov. The
Town of Tonawanda native was battered during the last round
and barely on his feet at the final bell. As a result, his
boxing license was suspended in Nevada, and federal law
requires that it be upheld in every other state.
Brain bleeds are the No. 1 cause of death
among boxers, but Cambria’s legal strategy has been to claim
that there’s no proof that someone who’s had brain bleeds
in the past is at greater risk to have them again. He fails
to point out that’s because those who have them are either
dead or forced to retire. Cambria also claims that the burden
of proof lies with the state if it intends to take away
Baby Joe’s right to earn a living.
Living? Dying? What’s the difference? Cambria
intends to appeal the commission’s decision. And Mesi has
vowed: “They’re going to have to let me box.” If they do,
Mesi just might have the stuff to win a world title, because
right now the heavyweight division is in shambles. For example…
Tyson has promised to retire after throwing in the towel
following the sixth round of his recent fight with Kevin
McBride, an unheralded heavyweight only slightly stronger
than a tall glass of Guinness.
Tyson has now lost three of his last four
fights versus two dented tomato cans – and Lennox Lewis
-- and his days of terrifying other boxers are long gone.
With his facial tattoo and high-pitched lisp he will have
to settle for scaring the shit out of women and small children.
In his prime, Tyson devastated the best
heavyweight boxers. He electrified fans, winning a world
title in 1986 by knocking out Trevor Berbick in two rounds,
and becoming the youngest champ ever at age 20. Perhaps,
though, he will be best remembered for having served three
years in prison for rape during the mid 1990s, and for biting
off a piece of heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield’s ear
during a 1997 bout.
After his defeat to McBride, Tyson said,
“I most likely won’t fight anymore. I’m not going to disrespect
the sport by losing to this caliber of fighters.” Yes, Mike,
don’t persist. You would only sully the good image of boxing
that you’ve done so much to promote.