On the day before Ricky Williams signed with the Argos, the telephone rang at my home late on a Saturday afternoon.
On the line was Leigh Steinberg, Williams agent.
I hadn't called him.
He was calling me.
This was particularly unusual because any of the times I had attempted to get Steinberg on the phone in the past had been unsuccessful.
This time he was tracking me down unsolicited.
He said he wanted to make sure "I was up to speed" on Williams before any announcement was made. He was offering to answer any questions or concerns I might have. The next day, after reading a column in the Toronto Star, it was evident that he had precisely the same telephone conversation elsewhere.
This is what is known simply as media manipulation.
Get the reporters on side just as you are about to make a major announcement.
That was less than two weeks ago.
Yesterday, on the big board where players' names are listed regarding media requests, on the day before Williams' second game as a Argo, one name clearly was missing.
"Ricky's not available," said the kid holding the board.
"Are you serious?" he was asked.
"He's taking the week off interviews."
By this time, Ricky was on the sidelines, shaking hands and thanking the four or five people who showed up to watch what wasn't really a practice. He didn't look like he was taking the week off.
"Can we talk?" I asked Ricky, walking alongside him.
"Can't," he said rather politely.
He is a rare athlete. He does, in fact, make eye contact.
"Why not?" I asked about his availability.
"It's a team thing," he said. "It's team atmosphere. I'll talk after the game."
Funny, can't remember Leigh Steinberg mentioning any of that on the phone.
I do remember him saying:"You'll love Ricky. There's an award given out by media in Miami for good guy of the year. Ricky won that award last year."
In fairness, the Argos are trying to figure out how to balance life with Ricky Williams. If they make it all about him, every day, every practice, they run the risk of browning off other important members of their team. If they don't make it all about him, they run the risk of alienating the newfound fans who are now paying attention to the team because of Ricky.
It's not an easy call. The Argos made a monumental splash with the signing of Williams, albeit for one year, and it became even wetter when Joe Theismann's criticism went coast to coast to coast. Since then, everyone from Hugh Campbell to Soupy Campbell has offered up an opinion on Ricky.
That happens to be good for business. Shutting Ricky down -- or in this case shutting him up -- is not.
Whomever made this determination -- whether it be Williams himself, Argos management, Argos ownership, Steinberg -- that Ricky would take the week off from doing media, made the wrong decision.
The more Ricky the better. The Argos should be all-Ricky, all the time.
They are, after all, paying for a player who has accomplished what no one here has managed before and they should be riding this as hard as they can. And clearly, we see that Ricky Williams is quite capable of handing that.
He's not squirrelly being a public figure the way Rocket Ismail was squirrelly. He's not uncomfortable in the spotlight the way Leon McQuay was uncomfortable. He's not even caustic, the way Doug Flutie could be caustic.
Game 2 of the Ricky Williams Tour goes tonight in Hamilton, where the Tiger-Cats have bolstered their lineup with a new quarterback, a new running back, a new scatback, a new receiver and a new offensive co-ordinator -- all of them proven CFL commodities -- just no one who can create headlines the way Ricky can.
So far, the Argos have a conversation piece and seven yards rushing. After tonight, we'll know a little bit more.
"He's getting more settled in," coach Pinball Clemons said. "They're more comfortable with who he is, he's more comfortable with who they are. He's 10 days better than when he got here. This game will be good for him."
Ricky might have said that himself. But he couldn't. He took the week off.
We're all very impressed with the Carolina Hurricanes but, you must admit, they are a lucky bunch. First, it was the injury to Saku Koivu in Round 1. Then the entire Buffalo defence got whacked in Round 3. Now, they're in the Stanley Cup final and the Edmonton Oilers have lost their starting goaltender. Yes, the Hurricanes are good -- good and fortunate.
Canadian hockey got a huge boost with news that the 2010 Vancouver Olympics will be played on NHL sized-ice surfaces. If anything baffled Canada in Turin, it was its inability to adapt to international ice. On a smaller rink, the game is more physical, more forechecking, more Canadian style. Can you say gold medal?
THE GRIM TRUTH
Jason Grimsley, the released pitcher, named names when the FBI turned the heat up on him. Lots of names. He admitted to using human growth hormone, anabolic steroids and amphetamines himself in a baseball career suddenly over. This isn't just about Barry Bonds anymore as Major League Baseball holds its breath, wondering who or what will be uncovered next.