IS IT TIME FOR T.O.'S MOUTH TO TAKE A T.O.?


There's a lot more than you might think to like about outspoken wide receiver Terrell Owens, says the WB's Alan Grant. Still, there's a time to speak out, and a time to shut up, and it's important to recognize the difference. Grant offers some advice on how to do just that in an open letter to the Philadelphia Eagles' newest savior.

An open letter to Terrell
| By Alan Grant

Terrell,

The last time we spoke, you had a lot on your mind. We sat in your sunroom, talking about the incident. At the time, the incident, that mad dash to the center of Texas Stadium, had put you into the unfortunate pantheon of athletes gone bad. As I recall, you were very troubled by this.

You didn't seem to understand how this particular act, which occurred during a freakin' football game, and in which no ex-girlfriend, or ex-wife and her acquaintance, had been murdered, could have such an immediate impact on so many people. You couldn't understand why such a thing would command such swift and decisive backlash.

Oh, you knew exactly what you were doing that day. You told me you had planned it the day before. But you seemed shocked that so many people would care so much about it.

As I recall, you seemed confused, almost hurt by the notion that those around you might actually dislike you on a personal level because of it. You had always seen yourself as nothing if not likeable; and before that incident, you had never done anything to cause coach, fan, or teammate psychological harm. But after that one incident, you knew that there was a chance that some people might not get you, that they might think you a less-than-savory character.

The Drake Group
The Drake Group at a conference in 2000.

"That's the kind of thing people get upset about?" you asked aloud.

I asked if you had to do it over, would you do it again. Remember what you said? I do, because back then, you were still pretty conflicted about your rep. You really thought about your answer. You laughed, shrugged, shook your head, then finally laughed again, before you said, "Yeah, I would do the same thing."

I remember something else that day. While you talked, you held some beads in your hands. You told me they were your grandmother's beads. As I recall, you wanted me to know about Alice Black. You wanted to talk about how Alzheimer's had ravaged her memory and your relationship with her. You told me how much she smiled on the rare occasions that she recognized you. I remember how much you smiled at the telling of that story. It was pretty obvious she was the most important part of your world.

I wonder now if some of your perspective comes from being raised by her, but not being her. You grew up in Alabama, but you never had to endure the horrors of that post-slavery, Jim Crow era like she had. I wonder if that contributes to your behavior these days.

Tell me if I'm wrong. But when you say things like, "I love me some Terrell!" I think I know where that's coming from. I think it's coming from a place that openly celebrates the fact that you're a man who doesn't have to bow and scrape and avert eye contact with non-colored folks, a man who can do anything he wants and who possesses bona fide self-esteem.

But see, if that's the case, it's a tricky thing. Unless you offer people some idea of where you're coming from, unless you tell them about what's in your heart, unless you tell them about Alice Black and show them your humanity, they won't ever get it, and they won't ever get you.

Maybe you don't want anyone to get you anymore. It's obvious you're no longer concerned with being liked. Not that I can totally blame you for abandoning that particular cause.

This isn't about people not liking you. Fact is, no one likes you these days. And I don't blame them. This is about respect. And I'm not talking about stuff on the field. I could care less about the tirades on the sideline. I know, as well as you do, that calm, rational exchange during the course of a game -- a game predicated on hitting people -- is quite the rarity, so that's never really bothered me.

And all the premeditated dancing and preening? I know that's what receivers do. You're all a bunch of freakin' divas; and, since none of you plays special teams or has to go to special teams meetings or practices special teams, you have too much time on your hands. So you spend it choreographing post-TD shenanigans. But big ups on the pom-pom thing. Seriously. Most original thing I've ever seen on the field.

The only thing you've done that really bothered me was your telling anyone in earshot that your quarterback sucks. See, this makes you something far worse than unlikable -- it makes you look painfully bitchy, especially when, on ocassion, you drop easy balls for no good reason at all.

Your worst sins were those stones slung at the heart of Jeff Garcia. You want to know the truth? I think your problem with Garcia is that, when you look at him, you see yourself.

And you don't like it.

I'm serious. You see someone who plays a position occupied by men who have inhaled the rarified air of legend. You see a scrappy overachiever who stepped into a no-win situation and won -- to an extent. Neither of you matched the accomplishments of the scarlet-and-gold, three-headed deity of Montana-Young-Rice; but you made it to Honolulu, more than once.

Maybe you don't want to see it that way. Maybe you choose not to see yourself as an overachiever, but as a legend in the making. I think you want to see yourself as Randy Moss, but you aren't the drop-a-bomb-change-the-game-in-one-play kind of package that he is. You're more like a series of small explosions.

That's not a bad thing, though you might think it is. When you criticized Garcia for his lack of arm strength, perhaps you were disturbed by your own lack of Randy Moss-type skills.

Just my opinion; but now that he's an ex-teammate, I think you owe Jeff Garcia one final act of public contrition.

Before I go, want to tell you that I do appreciate the fact that you voice your opinion about things. I've always maintained that it's not bad when an outspoken athlete expresses ideas about things outside of himself, as long as he does it judiciously and he tries to actually say something. So ease up on the Rosa Parks references and, should you see Kobe, tell him to ease up on the Martin Luther King references -- lest people make the easy comparison to King' s extramarital activities.

That's all I'm saying: Just think about some of this stuff before you say it. Who knows what could happen? At the very least, you might affect some minuscule societal change, or at the very very least, you might inspire fresh conversation among those of us who discuss sport for a living.

But the time for talk is later. For now, I'm asking you to be quiet. Run routes, catch the rock and block people downfield like you've always done. Just do it all in silence.

Should you do that, you might get respect. You might get more endorsements. Your new team might win a championship. And you might find peace, if that's what you're lacking. Perhaps we'll discuss that some other time.

But for now, just shut up.

Peace,

AG