Monday, November 08, 2004

Terrell, just shut up already

It seems like everyone these days is enlightening us with an opinion on Terrell Owens. He's a flamboyant superstar! He's a spoiled primadonna! He's a spokesman for a generation! He's a homophobe! ... Oh the contradictions!

So who is Terrell Owens? Well I'm not going to tell you I know for certain, since I've never met him, and if I did, I wouldn't ask him to describe himslf, because I'm sure his answer would involved fifteen references to the Lord, nine "I'm a team player" comments, seven improper adjectives and four occurrences of double talk. Actually, the only reason I feel a need to chime in on the matter is because the answer is unbelievably simple:

Terrell Owens is the most immature idiot in pro sports.

Others have tried to attribute his quirks to an overly ebullent personality, a stark desire to win, an unfair media, and I believe, on one occasion, al-Qaida. Friends, it's not all that complicated. Owens is dumb. And unlike some of his fellow pro athletes, he's not getting any less dumber (pardon the colloquialism).

Take Jeremy Shockey, Owens' homophobe brother-in-arms. Well, we all thought Jeremy was pretty cuckoo for insinuating that a certain Cowboys coach with a fishy nickname was a fan of Boys on the Side, but since then he's been able to keep his insightful social commentary to a hush. Sure, he still whines about his playing time like a two-year-old without a teething ring, but just yesterday I saw him do the most incredible thing.

With the Giants trailing 28-14 at the end of a very long, very poorly played game against the Chicago Bears, Shockey caught a touchdown pass. And then, without hesitation, without celebration, he flipped the ball to the official and jogged off the field. I nearly fainted.

Where was the flexing and the posing and the strutting? I checked the number. Yep, it was 80. Well, well, I thought, it appears Jeremy is finally learning the value of sportsmanship over a cutesy highlight on SportsCenter. But not our Terrell...

Terrell knows the cameras are on him. He likes that the cameras are on him. He eats it up. He absolutely thrives off it. As writer Skip Bayless recently pointed out, Owens is a master of self-promotion. His ear-to-ear grins and touchdown celebrations have an undeniable appeal. But to say that Owens intends to be so controversial, to act so stupidly so shamelessly, gives T.O. way too much credit. Because as much his Sharpie-wielding, pompom-shaking, sign defacing stunts have made him into a celebrity, they've also turned him into a anomalous circus sideshow.

What people should be talking about his how many touchdowns he's scored this season, and how he's the greatest receiver since Jerry Rice. Instead, they talk about everything else. Instead of Terrell Owens, Hall of Fame receiver, he's become Terrell Owens, lightning rod for controversy and spokesmodel for immaturity. He's 31 years old, and he still doesn't understand there's a difference between superstardom and celebrity... Sigh...

Sadly, as long as he continues justify his obnoxious behavior with virtuoso on-field performances, he'll largely be shielded from criticism. If the Eagles finally win the big one, he'll be celebrated as the man who helped put Philly over the top. People will forget about his ignorance and his self-interest because everyone loves a winner.

But history plays a game too, and right now Owens is on the wrong team. While men like Rice will be remembered principally for their accomplishments, Owens seems destined to be remembered as a curious character, a self-serving egomaniac, and oh yeah, a pretty decent ballplayer. If Pete Rose coaches that team, it looks like he's found his wide receiver.

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