In T.O. Land, every moment is a melodrama


In the end -- after the curiosity gave way to the hysteria, which gave way to the refutation, which gave way to lingering confusion -- it was just another strange day in T.O. Land.

The strangest yet.

If you believe a Dallas police report that was leaked Wednesday morning, Owens tried to commit suicide Tuesday by overdosing on pain pills. If you believe Owens and his publicist, Kim Etheredge, Owens simply had a bad reaction to mixing pain killers and supplements, and that landed the Cowboys wide receiver in the emergency room.

No matter which side you believe, there was no obvious sign of physical or psychological distress from Owens on Wednesday afternoon when he held a news conference to refute the cops' report and tamp down hours of ongoing media hyperventilation. That's the positive news.

Keep that in mind, because it's too easy to view Owens as a caricature of himself, a cartoon figure, rather than a real human being. The best possible outcome is that Owens is A-OK and never had any intention of harming himself. In the final analysis, it would be good to file this story in the Much Ado About Not Much file.

But there are still questions to answer before that's 100 percent believable. Namely, why would Dallas police officers author a report that said Etheredge told them Owens was "depressed" when they responded to her 911 call? She says she never said that, but it seems hard to believe that they would concoct that out of thin air.

Perhaps Etheredge made an inaccurate assumption when she found Owens "non-responsive," in his own words. But whether it was an attempt at suicide or merely a bad reaction, it's a good thing she called in emergency personnel.

Thing is, when you combine a 911 call, the word "suicide" in an official document, the star power of Owens and a ravenous 24-hour multimedia news cycle that sustains itself on breaking news -- and never waits long before leaping from fact-gathering to analysis and sweeping judgment -- you have an absolute carnival.

For once, the carnival barker wasn't Owens himself. But he was still the main attraction.

And that's why they need to put up signs on the outskirts of Terrell Owens territory: "Welcome to T.O. Land. Where Every Moment is a Melodrama."

He makes headlines and leads newscasts like no other athlete on the planet, but this tops 'em all. This outdoes his guerrilla sabotage of quarterbacks and coaches, in both Philadelphia and San Francisco. This beats Nicolette Sheridan dropping her towel and jumping in his lap for a prime-time primer to Monday Night Football. This supercedes the courageous Super Bowl comeback from a broken leg. This outdoes all the outré touchdown celebrations, all the overboard grandstanding, all the outsized posturing.

The latest chapter in the T.O. story, which continues to read like a pulp novel: From The ER to the Practice Field in 18 hours.

Subtitle: How T.O. Took Us For A Ride. Again.

It started Tuesday night with breaking news that Owens had been taken to a Dallas emergency room. The initial reports said he had a reaction to medication. That was enough to stir curiosity overnight, without necessarily thinking something was seriously wrong.

On Wednesday morning, out came the Dallas television report citing the police description of the incident as an attempted suicide. Suddenly the story had legs. No, check that. Suddenly the story had Carl Lewis' legs. It was sprinting out of control.

A star professional athlete, trying to kill himself in the prime of his career and the middle of a season? Pretty well unheard of.

Next thing you know, former Cowboys are popping up on television everywhere. Michael Irvin says it wasn't a suicide attempt. Deion Sanders is in front of Owens' home. The only thing missing was a statement from Emmitt Smith.

Then we went to the biggest farce of the day, the Bill Parcells non-news conference. Parcells spent a few dyspeptic minutes issuing combative and (I daresay) disingenuous protestations of total ignorance from Valley Ranch.

He knew absolutely nothing about the condition of his star receiver because, you know, Parcells isn't much of a detail guy and didn't have time to find out -- even though it turned out Owens was on the practice field for a while catching passes from Drew Bledsoe and Tony Romo.

Best of all was when the head coach said he'd report to the media as soon as he had some answers. Right, Bill. That update news conference should be coming any minute.

Then came star-of-the-show T.O., who certainly did not appear to be a guy who tried to kill himself the night before. Nor would you think an organization as media savvy as the Cowboys would trot the guy out in front of a voyeuristic world if he seemed mentally unstable. Owens would have been in a treatment center, not in front of a wall of cameras.

After offering his version of events, Owens said he plans to practice Thursday. He also hopes to play Sunday against Tennessee, if his surgically repaired right hand can take it.

That officially would make him the first player in NFL history to be upgraded from suicidal to questionable in the span of less than a day.

But I guess we shouldn't be surprised by anything involving No. 81. This was just another strange day in T.O. Land, where life only gets curiouser and curiouser.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.