- Gene Wojciechowski, Senior Writer
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Terrell Owens needs our help, not our scorn. It's like what Tommy Boy said: "Brothers don't shake hands. Brothers gotta hug."
So I'm here to hug. Problem is, I can't find too many people willing to help the troubled Owens fix his fractured relationship with the Philadelphia Eagles, which took another blow when the Eagles said he won't be back this season.
T.O. wanted proper recognition for his 100 career touchdown receptions, some of which he actually caught as an Eagle. The Philly front office said no -- not because 100 TD catches isn't a big deal, but because team officials couldn't secure the entire Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade floats lineup, as requested by T.O. and his publicist, for the on-field ceremony.
Fine. So in the name of peaceful coexistence, I called the world-famous Geno's Steaks in South Philly and asked if they'd consider naming a cheesesteak sandwich after T.O. for a week or two. Just to help with his self-esteem and this whole respect thing.
"Nobody's going to do anything like that around here," said counter worker Anthony Marconni, reacting as if I'd requested feta cheese on my steak sandwich. "He needs a team of himself."
"No chance then?" I said.
"That's about right," said Marconni, who then recited a list of Eagles who had made the pilgrimage to the landmark joint on South Ninth Street. Owens wasn't on the list.
Maybe a statue would help T.O.'s fragile ego. Something with him holding a Sharpie or waving pom-poms. After all, Philadelphia is the home of the 9-foot-high bronze statue of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky, which used to sit in front of the city's Art Museum (that's where Rocky ran up the 72 stairs and raised his arms in triumph) before it was moved to a Spectrum arena sidewalk.
"We actually are not currently commissioning artwork relating specifically to individuals," said Yvonne Wise, who oversees the city's collection, including the Rocky statue, as public art director.
"How about if I arranged for a statue of T.O. to be donated to the city?" I said.
"Everything has to be approved by the art commission," Wise said politely.
In other words, fat chance.
Perhaps there's a way to bridge the divide between T.O. and quarterback Donovan McNabb, whom Owens dissed in a recent ESPN.com interview. Sure, T.O. said he thinks the Eagles would be undefeated if Brett Favre was their quarterback. But that doesn't rule out a gesture of forgiveness on McNabb's part, does it?
What I had in mind was McNabb letting Owens take his place in one of those feel-good Campbell's Chunky Soup ads we see every 11 seconds. A win-win, right?
"You're welcome to propose that," said Campbell's spokesperson John Faulkner, whose corporate offices are located just across the river from Philly.
"So you'd be open to the idea?" I said.
"Don't think so," Faulkner said. "We'll be happy to provide him with as much Chunky as we can."
"T.O. doesn't fit your profile?"
"I guess what we're typically looking for in a Chunky guy is a guy with a big heart, fun loving, big in the community," Faulkner said. "With [Owens], I'm not checking off too many boxes there."
This erosion of support is worse than I thought. Yes, the Philadelphia Phillies told me they'd love for T.O. to throw out the first pitch at a 2006 game, but he could be gone by next April. What we need is a real professional to heal the emotional wounds caused by T.O.'s seven-year, $48.97 million contract, by his fight with former Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas, by his squabbles with the front office, and most important, by his disintegrating football marriage with McNabb.
We need Keila M. Gilbert, president of the Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation, which has offices in Philadelphia.
"Tell me this, is it a relationship that both parties want to preserve?" Gilbert asked.
"The team suspended him indefinitely, if that's what you mean," I said.
"If one of them doesn't want to reconcile then there's no point in [mediation]."
"OK, let's say I can get T.O. and McNabb in a room. Then what?"
"We'd bring them in with a neutral third party -- a mediator -- and use our techniques to bring them to an agreement. You need to get them to listen to each other, validate each other, and carve out something."
I mention that T.O. can be a little stubborn about the validation thing.
"We have what we call, 'active listening,' where each party has to repeat what the other party said, so they show that they understand," Gilbert said.
"And if that doesn't work?"
"If we get highly conflicted couples, we will have them talk through the mediator."
I pity our mediator. Brad and Jennifer have a better chance of getting back together than T.O. and McNabb.
"It comes down to conflict," Gilbert said. "That works on a football field. In real life, destroying another person isn't going to preserve the relationship. They have to be part of the solution. They have to get away from that football mentality, which obviously they are very steeped in."
Steeped? They're chin strap-deep in it.
T.O. needs more than a hug, cheesesteak, statue, soup can, or mediator. He needs a new act.
This one isn't worth saving. And now, it likely won't be.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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