Longform

The Hard Lie

Page 8 of 8

As the sun goes down on his lake house and his Memorial Day party heats up, Williams encourages his guests to eat, drink, be merry and drink some more. Seems like cruel and unusual punishment for an addict to tease himself with the lure of alcohol on his own porch. But with his friends slamming tequila shots, gulping Jägermeister snow cones and his girlfriend cutting up more limes for more Coronas, he surveys the scene and accepts his fate.

"I can't drink, because I'm an addict. Not one beer," Williams says. "Look, I've been clean since October. It's 9 o'clock on May 24. I can just about say I've whipped this day's ass. But tomorrow, if I don't watch it, I could go tumbling right down again."

Thanks to Rosenbaum, he's back on his medication, seems relatively healthy, is considering marriage and is working on getting closer to his 26-year-old son, Derek. Though he still has a legion of fans—some who infiltrate Ticket events with "Where's Greggo?" signs—Williams knows his image has been plundered. He was the ultimate hypocrite, gallivanting down the same decadent path he sanctimoniously lambasted athletes such as Michael Irvin, Roy Tarpley and Steve Howe for taking.

At 48, he could retire. Williams has been smart with his money, and the profits from selling a condo or two could keep him afloat for years. But he desperately wants to return to radio. "For my credibility and sanity, I've got to get back on the air."

He says he could start tomorrow working afternoons in Phoenix or mornings in Pittsburgh, but he's not about to leave home. Since March he's been in negotiations with ESPN Radio about a weeknight 7-10 p.m. show.

Though ESPN program director Tom Lee will only speak about hiring Williams in vague terms—"He's definitely on our radar"—Williams talks about the job in terms of when, not if. He says he's already undergone an extensive background check, agreed in principle to a one-year contract without benefits and at about a seventh of his Ticket salary, and expects to debut this month during Cowboys' training camp alongside ESPN regular RJ Choppy. He already has theme music, has Rosenbaum working on a Web site and even recently bought a fuel-efficient Ford Focus for the nightly commute to Arlington.

"I'm humbled, but I know I can still do winning radio," Williams says. "I've got a lot left in me, and I've got a lot to prove to myself and everyone else."

Williams knows he will likely never win back all of his fans or half his friends. But in a sports town that cheers Josh Hamilton and forgives Pacman Jones, his reputation just might be salvageable.

"I'll live the rest of my life through urinalysis," Williams says. "Even if I say I'm clean nobody will believe me. And they shouldn't. I did this, and I'll probably never totally forgive myself. I pissed on my name. Pissed on the best job in the world. But I'm ready to move forward, to live the life I should've been living all along."

The Hammer is half-cocked.

The gun, however, is no longer loaded.

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt