Just two letters identify one of the most prolific yet controversial wide receivers in football. Over the past decade, both on the field and off, Terrell Owens seems to grab the spotlight wherever he goes. Whether it’s leading his team to the Super Bowl-as with the 2004-2005 Philadelphia Eagles-or being put on the inactive list due to a much-publicized falling out with his own quarterback-as with the 2005-2006 Eagles-people just can’t stop talking about him.
Many, myself included, perpetually ask, Why? Why do we care so much about a selfish and egotistic person? And why, in the name of all that is holy, would Jerry Jones and the Cowboys want to get involved with someone who nearly single-handedly destroyed a team’s playoff aspirations just last year?
Personally, I see three reasons why Terrell Owens continues to be at the forefront of the NFL. First off, he is quite simply a dominant, game-changing wide receiver. While he may ruin teams from inside the locker room, not a single person can argue against his abilities on the field. Standing at an imposing six feet three inches and weighing a solid 226 pounds, it’s a difficult task for any defensive back to cover T.O. effectively. Looking at his size with his strength and pure athleticism, one can see why Owens has accumulated more than 10,000 receiving yards and 100 touchdowns in his career with San Francisco and Philadelphia. Watching T.O. play in the 2005 Super Bowl after breaking his leg only 2 months earlier was awe-inspiring, even to an Eagles hater such as myself.
But so what? There are plenty of talented wide receivers around the league who could replace Owens in the spotlight. The truth is that fans like T.O.’s antics. Players and coaches may dislike him for his disruptive behavior, but fans can’t wait to see what Owens will do next. His disparaging comments and attention-seeking ploys are so over-the-top that people actually find him entertaining. I would compare this phenomenon with a reality TV show. Nobody’s interested in the quiet guy sitting in the corner, no matter how nice of a guy he is. Conversely, the most talked-about reality stars are the self-centered, bad-tempered show-offs. Sound like anyone else? It seems unbelievable that T.O. hasn’t learned from his past mistakes, but the fans love it and thus ESPN keeps reporting on him.
In my mind, the main reason why the Cowboys signed Owens is his sheer star power. The professional athletes that maintain legacies over time are those who make a name for themselves both on and off the field. Jimmie Foxx, James Lofton and Warren Moon were all once sports superstars but have no immediate name recognition. But when I say Babe Ruth, Wilt Chamberlain or Muhammad Ali, everyone knows who I’m talking about. These athletes were great performers, but also possessed unique and intriguing off-field personalities.
I’m not saying that the childish T.O. is football’s Babe Ruth (even though Jerry Jones might think so), but they certainly have the same type of “sex appeal”. Yet in the end, I see Terrell Owens as becoming more of an infamous athlete than a famous one. Considering his rough start in Dallas, this changeover may happen sooner rather than later.