Is T.O. good or bad for the NFL?

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Terrell Owens is the most “me-first” athlete in professional sports.

There, I said it. And while professional sports is full of them, I stand by my assertion. Owens has put himself back in the spotlight.

“It just shows a lack of class they have.”

This most recent statement by Owens about the Eagles’ failure to celebrate his 100th career touchdown catch, is the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, but I’d say it was a strong camel, and it took quite the haystack to finally do it. The Eagles suspended Owens for four games and deactivated him for the remainder of the season, and then took the admirable step of standing firm after he backtracked.

Owens is exactly what the NFL doesn’t need—a player who is so talented he gets away with his immaturity and irresponsibility. Nice role model.

Let’s start with the infamous Texas Stadium celebration fiasco. It marked the last time Owens’ own team suspended him. The NFL has cracked down on celebrations, but his mockery of the Dallas Cowboys’ logo in 2000—rejoicing against Dallas’ wishes on the blue star at

midfield—was the only celebration I have ever seen that has been outright offensive. It was disrespectful, it was cheap, and it was arrogant. It was T.O. in a nutshell.

Fast-forward to 2004, when the Eagles, Owens’ newest team were on their way to the Super Bowl. Before an important game, ABC’s Monday Night Football ran an intro skit in which Owens abandons his teammates and skips the game in favour of a beautiful, naked woman who had essentially offered herself to him in the locker room.

“Aw, hell, the team’s going to have to win this one without me,” Owens says, grinning ear to ear.

You see, for T.O., it’s never been about the team, and Owens’ prepared apology for his most recent comments are no reason to believe that will ever change.

There’s no denying how talented Owens is, but he’s a cancer. This guy makes Keyshawn Johnson, author of Just Give Me the Damn Ball!, look like Brett Favre when it comes to sacrificing oneself for the good of the team. He’s as bad for the NFL as he is for the Eagles.

That leads us to Wednesday’s request by the NFL Players Association that Owens be released after his suspension so that he can become a free agent. I say let him. Who wants him? Owens is in the second year of a seven-year, $48-million contract, but if I’m a general manager, I’d say he costs about $49-million too much.

T.O. could have been the greatest thing the XFL had ever seen. Remember “He Hate Me”? Introducing number 81, “My Team Hates Me”—or is it “I Love Me”?

--James Bradshaw

counterpoint

It seems as though the notorious Terrell Owens has alienated himself yet again.

Owens publicly criticized Eagles quarterback Donavan McNabb for the team’s poor record, and said that the organization had a “lack of class” for not preparing an on-field celebration after his 100th touchdown catch.

The Eagles responded by suspending Owens for four games, and deactivating him for the rest of the season due to repeated incidents deemed detrimental to the team.

Once again the world hates Terrell Owens. It will be difficult to find someone who sincerely defends his blatant pride. Headlines will demonize him, fans will boo him and columnists will tear him apart. Ironically, Owens is right where he wants to be.

Owens is well-known for his exceptional play on the field, but he is infamous for his brash and egotistical personality. His recent comments are all a part of his very profitable image.

He’s created a persona the media is drawn to—he gets our attention, and he gets his fame. They conduct interviews with pointed questions, they twist contexts, they create the stories we crave.

Say what you want about Owens—call him egotistical, greedy and despicable. Say that he is nothing but a blemish on the game and deserves everything he gets. Place him on par with the other villains of professional sports—the Artests, the Bertuzzis, the Tysons.

But you have to admit that you can’t wait to hear what he says next.

In the midst of our rightful condemnation of such athletes, a paradox exists. Deep down inside, we love the bad guys. We long for the next crass remark, sex scandal, drug charge or arena brawl.

For every sober Tiger Woods we need an alcoholic John Daly.

It’s terrible, but it’s true. They colour pro sports with a tantalizing shade of eccentric personality.

We have set professional athletes on pedestals as superhuman demigods. We admire them, envy them, lavish them with riches—and then we can’t help but stare at the carnage when they fall. We find a strange pleasure in knowing that they are mere mortals after all, imperfect and flawed like us.

And don’t think they don’t know it. Controversy equals attention. Attention equals publicity. Publicity equals spotlight. It’s a reciprocal relationship: if we get entertained—regardless of the reason—they get paid.

The NFL knows this, and that’s why—despite publicly chastising him—they really love the attention Owens brings to the game.

Bad publicity leads to notoriety, which in turn creates revenue. When Terrell Owens “loses,” everyone wins.

--Dan Robson

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