So, Terrell Owens has been cut and lost his ownership stake in his Indoor Football League team. According to ESPN, he refused to play two road games which are necessary for the Allen Wranglers in their bid for the IFL Playoffs.
Is anyone really surprised?
Yet another team, and not even an NFL team, has decided that his talent and ability just aren’t worth the off the field antics and self-centeredness. This actually makes me sad, not because I wanted to see more of Owens, but because he made all the wrong choices.
Again, again, and again.
Owens made the choice over and over again that being a living, breathing reality show was much more important than being a good teammate. He could have been known for his stats. He could have been known for being uncoverable, or number six on the all-time receptions list. He could have been known for his great playoff game against the Giants in 2002 or for his amazing last-second game-winning catch against the Packers in the 1998 playoffs. He could even be known for playing the entire Super Bowl (and playing well) with a broken leg that was still healing.
But, he won’t.
All of his accomplishments on the field will always be secondary to the non-stop circus he created. He left a very large fraternity of angry quarterbacks and broken locker rooms in his wake. I am a firm believer in the principle that one time is an accident, two is a trend, and three is a problem. Anyone can screw up once and have that one time be an anomaly.
Now, I am not a Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons, but I hope that his career will serve as a cautionary tale to all of the high school and pee-wee league players out there. The lesson is that you cannot continually be that big of a jerk and expect to be rewarded, no matter how talented you are in any setting, not just football. Even though Owens was in a very exclusive and high-profile industry, and he was arguably the best at what he did in that industry (during his era), the entire industry decided that he just isn’t worth it. Unfortunately, kids usually paint a rosy picture of athletes. They see the money, the fame, the SportsCenter highlights, the perks, the mansions, the ten Mercedes’ in the driveway (figuratively, I don’t know what Owens drives), and look past how all of it was pissed away and what they did to piss it away.
The cliché states that football is a team game. We all know that to be true, but something that is sometimes lost is how much every member of the team is dependent upon their teammates. Basketball and hockey games can be taken over by one guy. Ninety-five percent of any baseball game is involving only three guys (pitcher, catcher, and batter). Any play in football requires all twenty-two players to be a part of the action. That means that the players all have to have trust in one another to do their respective jobs and at least have some kind of mutual respect, which Owens never seemed to reciprocate.
There is only one player that I can think of that compares to Owens in this department, and it’s Duane Thomas. There were never-ending stories of Thomas being a malcontent everywhere he went. Dallas, New England, Washington, and San Diego all wanted nothing to do with him after very short stays at each place.
The funny thing is, both Thomas and Owens have a clean record off the field. All of their baggage has to do with what they do once they’re inside that stadium.
Wide receiver is the most ego-centric position in football. The only player that is guaranteed to get the ball on every play is the quarterback (barring a rare direct-snap to the running back). On a running play, everyone on offense knows that the ball is going to only one player; but on a passing play, the ball can go to any one of five eligible receivers (six if you include the quarterback), and every one of them wants the ball. In my opinion, the five best receivers in the modern NFL (post-AFL merger) are Jerry Rice, Art Monk, Steve Largent, Tim Brown, and Cris Carter. What is the first thing you think of when those names come up?
Work ethic. Compatibility. Toughness. Willingness to do whatever it takes. They are not known for their egos, and I do not remember any one of them blasting their quarterback in the press.
Owens being cut does bring up an interesting question: Should and are players concerned about their legacy after they leave the game? If they are concerned about seeking employment after their playing careers, then they should be. The only time that anyone can say that they truly don’t need anyone else to help them ever is if they have enough money and security to go at it alone. Longtime NFL players usually have the money, but we see constantly how that usually doesn’t last long.
The NFL will employ damn near anyone, regardless of their personal history, as long as they can do the job. But the NFL, and the IFL in this case, won’t employ Terrell Owens, and that says something.