When it's all about T.O., who cares if his argument has a valid point?


August 15, 2005|By Bryan Burwell

TRY IF YOU will to imagine for just a moment that there is something genuinely sympathetic in the plight of Terrell Owens. ...

Nahhhh. Forget about it.

During the past few days, we've seen T.O. in all his obnoxious glory, as he's turned his entire life into some gaudy reality television show that has exposed the Philadelphia Eagles' "dig me" wide receiver and his smarmy agent Drew Rosenhaus for the outlandish caricatures they really are.

There they were in front of any moving television camera all weekend long, trying valiantly to take their case to the people, in an effort to generate some righteous indignation for the "oppression" Owens has been forced to endure by the Eagles. I mean, what's a man to do when he's being forced to bear up to the unreasonable burden of having to survive on a $12 million "pittance" over the next two years?

If only Owens had stuck to the original issue, which was that, by NFL standards, he is being underpaid as one of the best wide receivers in the business. If he'd only stuck to that point, it would have been at least reasonable to defend T.O.'s outrage, because of the one-sided nature of NFL contracts that give management the right to redo deals in their favor from year to year but give the athletes no such privilege.

Whether you are offended by the sound of a millionaire crying poverty or not, it's easy to concede how unfair those circumstances are for Owens and every other pro football player. But we are so long past that point, because T.O.'s outrage has turned into a ridiculous comedy.

This is not about the Eagles doing right by Owens. This is all about T.O., the absolute essence of the selfish "dig me" man. A pop psychologist could have a field day rummaging around Owens' cluttered and confused mind.

What exactly would motivate a grown man who is trying to generate public sympathy, but has just been kicked out of training camp by his head coach for insubordination, to choose as his first public act a series of self-absorbed, silly skits on his driveway?

Why would you go on national television trying to convince people that you have been wronged but spend most of the time ripping on your coach, dogging your quarterback and insulting your offensive coordinator? And why exactly would you have your goofy, whiny agent sitting there next to you, constantly chirping?

It's one thing to be a flamboyant, controversial showman who comes from the evolutionary trail of Muhammad Ali. But so much of what made Ali revolutionary was the overwhelming substance that accompanied his outrageous style. Ali decried racism, railed against war and raged against the powerful political machine.

T.O. is a comic-book clown by comparison. Sure he is flamboyant, and no doubt he is controversial. But his showmanship evolves not from Ali's powerful legacy; Owens is a direct descendant of the embarrassing buffoonery of the black-face minstrel shows. There is no substance with his outrageous style, just more clownish behavior that makes you want to cringe.

He loves to portray himself as some heroic, selfless warrior, constantly reminding us all of his stunning Super Bowl performance on that still-healing broken leg. But the further removed we get from the Super Bowl, the more it's clear of his true intentions. If given the choice between the Eagles losing and his playing great, or Philly winning and Owens being some unnoticed bit player in a dramatic victory, there really is no choice:

Unlike the rest of us, when it comes to T.O., he'd rather be the star in his own funeral than the pallbearer in somebody else's.

Bryan Burwell, a former Sun reporter, is a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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