by Alan Grant
August 08, 02012
Whenever we talk about Terrell Owens, we reveal something about ourselves. Really. He’s the lightning rod for one’s station in life, our measuring stick for existential angst. If he really bothers you, I mean if he really gets under your skin to the point where you can’t focus on anything else, chances are you’re unfulfilled in some area of your life.
ICONOwens is back in the NFL after signing a one-year deal with the Seahawks.
If he slightly annoys you, then you’re probably too busy to follow any team other than your own.
If you like Terrell Owens, you’re either A) as crazy as he is or B) you know something about ‘ball.
In many ways, Terrell Owens is the most important man in sports, much like Latrell Sprewell was the most important from 1997 until about ‘98, which is ironically about the time Owens appeared. By important I mean his actions matter. His actions mean something. His actions force us to consider where we stand on certain issues.
Owens once stood on the Dallas Star. It was at best, controversial, at worst, in bad taste. But it wasn’t like he raped someone, or sunk a winstrol-laden syringe into his ass, or God forbid, killed some dogs. He followed through on a premeditated celebratory gesture.
A few months after the Dallas Star incident I called the Forty Niners office to request an interview. I’ll never forget the public relations director’s response to my request to speak to Owens. It seemed no one had ever done a feature story on him. “It’s about time,” he said.
That seems so surreal now, that no one was talking about him. Since then Owens has, for better or worse, single handedly defined the twenty first century athlete. He’s alienated quarterbacks, played a Super Bowl on a broken leg, made post game blubbering into must see t.v., starred in not one but two silly reality shows, and as of late gotten small parts in two prime time television shows: Necessary Roughness and Go On, Mathew Perry’s upcoming new vehicle on NBC.
My initial thought was only someone like Charlie Sheen (read:white) could parlay burning professional bridges into professional opportunity. But T.O. has proven, for better or worse, that the market for miscreants knows no color.
It’s a good day (?)
I always hear people talking about how they could never do some of the things athletes do, how they could never get away with choking their boss or fighting with coworkers. You’re right. But football isn’t like your job. It’s not like my job either.
When I worked for the world wide leader in sports, colleagues would surreptitiously compare me to Terrell Owens. It wasn’t a compliment. I was ambitious and energetic. I was comfortable with myself. Because of that I stood out in the newsroom. This was considered off putting. See, traditional print media is reserved for the insecure, self-loathing, neurotic, and socially-awkward. (Those more self-aware writers will admit this is true) If you’re the least bit confident, self-assured, or comfortable in your own skin, you’re deemed “arrogant.” There’s no middle ground in that little universe.
There’s no middle ground in ‘ball either. You can either play or you can’t.
We can talk about character and integrity as if they really mattered. Maybe there is some genuine interest in such things. And of course there’s some political maneuvering and roster decisions based on budget concerns. But at its core football, like any sport, is about talent.
One of my favorite scenes from the movie North Dallas Forty is when Phil Elliot, the misfit receiver, is called into the owner’s office to meet with the coach and General Manager. Says the coach: “Phil, you have the best hands in football. But there’s more to this game than ability.”
Elliot replies: “No, it is about ability. It’s about what I can do with these hands.”
In ‘ball, if you have talent and you can help a team win, you’ll get hired. For those folks who hate Terrell Owens with every fiber of your being ask yourself one question: If he’s so awful, if he’s such a…what’s that stupid, overused, clichéd word… oh yeah, “cancer,” why did the Forty Niners, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills, Bengals, and now the Seahawks sign him?
Answer: because he can play. That’s what matters. That’s why I love sports. It makes sense. I’m happy to see T.O. back in the game. So what does that say about me? I guess it means I’m selfish. I love talking about him.