What happened to Terrell Owens?
So it’s 4 am on the day after the perhaps the greatest wildcard weekend, and instead of writing a recap of those incredible games, I have the urge to write about one of (and I literally mean one of. We’re talking count on one hand “one of”) the greatest Wide Receivers to ever play football; Terrell Owens. Looking at things objectively, I probably should write about the games we just saw. But fuck it, it’s my blog, and I’m writing what I want. And besides, it’s far overdue. The recap can wait 24 hours. This is something I need to get off my chest.
When I look back at Terrell Owens, I can’t help but see the obvious parallels between him and Allen Iverson. They were both great, great players who didn’t care (at least in their younger playing days) about protocol and arse kissing. All they cared about was kicking arse and shockingly enough, being honest. The sporting world, especially from a journalistic standpoint, simply was not ready for them. This article is going to come across as being incredibly biased, and I couldn’t care less. I’ll admit I grew up watching these guys play. Do I know them? Absolutely not. I don’t know if they’re decent human beings or not (although from my observations I would say yes, they are.) The reason why I want to talk about them is the way they were ran out of their leagues was wrong, and when we dig a bit deeper, we discover precisely what is wrong with professional sports and the power the media has over it.
I have tried to really not go after TMZ ESPN and the way they manufacture hype because it’s just so incredibly obvious. The reality is, there has never been a better example of this than Terrell Owens. Here’s a man who sacrificed his body (remember him playing with a broken foot and dominating in the superbowl?), but was labelled selfish. Here’s a man that was considered a cancer to his teams, because he threw his teammates under the bus because he pointed out that in that aforementioned superbowl, he did play with a broken foot while McNabb was throwing up and unable to get plays off. But then, when Owens came to the defence of Tony Romo for screwing up, he was mocked and ridiculed for that too. ESPN’s obsession with slandering this man cost him 2 or 3 more seasons in the NFL.
Am I being too harsh on ESPN? No. If anything, I’m going PG on them. It was their name and branding that was signing off on it, and I do hold them responsible to a large degree for that. But the problem is actually bigger than them, if you can believe that. The issue relates to bias and subjectivity in sports journalism. T.O. challenged McNabb for leadership (either directly or indirectly, we don’t know) of the Eagles. McNabb, instead of accepting the challenge, fought the political game via the media. Michael Wilbon, a close friend of McNabb’s, unleashed an assault on Owens’ character on PTI which ultimately lead to Owens being cut. Dallas picked him up the following season, but from the start, it was obvious that Parcells was not a fan of the move. Ed Warder consistently reported unsubstantiated rumours and use misquotations to further assassinate Owens’ career. These claims I am making were validated when he played in Buffalo and Cincinnati and by all accounts, was considered a good teammate.
The ultimate insult was the hypocrisy in the hysteria. T.O. was accused (and vilified), as I mentioned earlier, for throwing his teammates under the bus. But when the likes of Jason Witten and Miles Austin did it to Owens, not one word of condemnation was uttered. What happened in Philly and Dallas ultimately led to Owens having the label of being a team cancer and a distraction and a diva (way to use gender as an insult, big networks) which is why teams were no longer interested in him. This is the same exact thing that happened to Allen Iverson. Both of these guys had more to offer, and were not embarrassing themselves or the league. There were guys ahead of them that did not belong in the league and could not produce the way that they could, and yet, Iverson or Owens could not get another serious opportunity at the end of their careers, and because of this, both the NBA and the NFL have lost legitimacy. If Michael Vick was able to get a second chance as a backup after everything he did, how in the hell can T.O. not be given an opportunity? There is nothing dirtier in this world than politics, and it has never been more apparent of it’s power in sports than what happened with Owens.
If you’re sensing a lot of frustration as you’re reading this, you’re right. The power of the media, and the irresponsible actions by a few (and the way it was empowered and condoned by huge networks) costed these two legends the opportunity to leave their sports gracefully and with dignity. They deserved that, and were robbed of it, and it was disgusting.