Terrell Owens Sets a Bad Example for Kids

It’s almost football season, and for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens (T.O.) recently had a heart-to-heart with Eagles Coach Andy Reid.  The meeting was captured on a hidden microphone and it went something like this …
Owens: That’s what I’m gonna do for you. God bless you, Andy. Now this is what you’re gonna’ do for me. You listening?

Coach Reid: Yeah, yeah, what can I do for YOU, Terrell?

Owens: It’s a very personal, very important thing. Hell, it’s a family motto. Now are you ready? Just checking to make sure you’re ready here it is — show me the money. OHHH!!!! SHOW! ME! THE! MONEY! Doesn’t it make you feel good just to say that, Coach? Say it with me one time, brother!

Coach Reid: Show me the money!

Owens: Yeah, that’s it, brother, but you got to yell that!

Coach Reid: Show me the money!

Owens: Louder!

(Okay, I admit it.  This isn’t really Andy Reid and Terrell Owens.  You probably guessed it’s really from the movie Jerry McGuire – but it’s basically what’s going on right now between Terrell Owens and the Philadelphia Eagles.) 
And just like in the movie, the “star” football player has lost touch with the reason he first started playing when he was a kid.  It used to be about the team, the fans, or even (as I puff out my chest) the love of the game.  But for Owens, it’s now all about “the Benjamins.”

For those of you who aren’t ESPN addicts, let me fill in the blanks: Terrell Owens recently arrived at Philadelphia Eagles training camp in Bethlehem, Pa., and immediately started causing problems.  Training camp is the time when players get back in shape, and coaches get a look at whether or not they want to keep new players.  I mean, here these guys are trying to get ready for the season, and he’s demanding more cash. 

In addition to feuding with his coaches, Owens has found time to start a feud with quarterback Donovan McNabb (Good move, McNabb’s only the guy who throws you the ball.  Who needs him, right?).  He called McNabb a “hypocrite” and also said that they could play together just fine without ever speaking to one another.  It’s gotten so bad that Rush Limbaugh jokingly offered to mediate the dispute between these two ….

The good news is that the Eagles are following sage conservative advice such as: “Don’t negotiate with terrorists,” and “Peace through strength.”   A lesser team would have caved in to Owens’ demands.  But rather than let his negative attitude poison the other players, the Eagles wisely sent him home from training camp for a week. 

Even better, in “Ronald Reagan vs. Air Traffic Controllers Union fashion,” the Eagles are calling Owens’ bluff: they’re not going to trade him.  Sure, trading him might have been the smart business decision.  But by letting him languish, the Eagles are doing the right thing for football and in the long-run, sending a powerful message to their players that this is a principled organization.  Keeping Owens on the shelf is, of course, tantamount to sending your kid to his bedroom to “think about what he did.”  Once you lay down the gauntlet, there’s no going back.  Whoever blinks first loses.

The Eagles deserve credit for doing the right thing in this situation because they have so much to lose.  Don’t forget, they went to the Super Bowl last year.  The Eagles could have built on last year’s performance and perhaps won this year.  But it takes everybody being on the same page to win the big game.  By throwing away his chance to be on a winning Super Bowl team, Owens is behaving as if he has an unconscious fear of success.  Talented?  Yes.  Self destructive?  Unquestionably!  Acceptable?No way.

Speaking of last year’s Super Bowl, Owens deserves credit for his performance.  You have to respect a guy for overcoming a nasty injury and making it back in time to help is team in the big game.  That kind of stuff only happens in movies.  I mean, this is a guy who defied doctors’ orders to return from a broken leg to catch nine passes in the Super Bowl.  That’s a respectable performance, if I ever saw one.  And that’s what is so disappointing

Owens isn’t the first talented athlete to play this attitude game.  Just last year, Randy Moss embarrassed his team by leaving the field before the game officially ended.  In short, he wasn’t going to go down with the ship.  The following game, Moss simulated “mooning” the crowd after scoring a touchdown.  Of course, Moss’ Vikings lost the following game … which proves my point: Players like Moss (and now, maybe Owens) rarely end up winning anything.  Sure, they get some quick publicity, but that’s not what makes you great.  That’s not what people make movies about.  That’s not what gets you to Canton.

Of course, my main concern in all of this is the lesson it sends to our children.  Maybe this fight is bigger than just the Eagles vs. Owens.  Maybe this is symbolic.  Maybe parents will be able to point to Owens and say, “this is what happens when you put yourself before the team.”  Our kids should have heroes they can emulate, and they should know that they will be held accountable for their actions.  Any kid who patterns himself after T.O. or Moss is sentencing himself to a life of asking, “Want fries with that?”  Sad, but true: we’ve come a long way since the days of Vince Lombardi. 

But there is redemption in life – and in football.  In Jerry McGuire, Rod Tidwell eventually realizes his constant focus on money is actually hurting his career.  He doesn’t really achieve true success in football until he rediscovers his love for the game and puts others first.  Maybe that’s just a silly Hollywood ending.  Maybe I’ve seen too many movies about guys with names like George Gipp … and Rudy.  I don’t know.  I only hope T.O. has such an awakening.