You always want to give doubt the benefit. The benefit that inside of all three sides to every story, the truth of the matter, even if not found, can be someone's salvation.
When the story broke that Terrell Owens attempted to commit suicide by an overdose of pain medication Tuesday night, the benefit of doubt given to most athletes flew out the window.
Then everything began to unfold. Suspect police report, suspect medical information, suspect initial statement released from Owens' publicist Kim Etheredge, suspect news reporting. By the time Bill Parcells spoke to the media conference without even being fully briefed on the status of the situation, the doubt that usually surrounds everything T.O. suddenly became his benefit.
For the first time in a very long time it looked as if Terrell Owens had been wronged.
As he sat up there while cameras flashed and reporters fought to ask questions, Owens seemed to have a sense of credibility embracing his being that he's never had before. Although honest in his mind almost to a fault, in most cases, Owens basically broke the incident down as an "unfortunate situation."
A distraction. A dramatic episode. Another T.O. thing.
But this time it wasn't. This time it seemed that being T.O. finally caught up with T.O.; that his past behavior and antics led a nation to almost believe that the man who "loves me some me" more than anyone in professional sports would attempt to end a life and career that he loves more than anything in the world.
But his aura obscured the facts. Blinded reason. Created extreme reaction.
"The I took 35 pills is absurd," he said to reporters at the Cowboys' practice facility after catching balls with Drew Bledsoe and Tony Romo. "And rumors that I had my stomach pumped are definitely untrue.
"It's very unfortunate for the reports to go from an allergic reaction to a definite suicide attempt."
Most of that unfortunate has been of his own creation -- everything he's done that made this last incident seem plausible. But he sat there -- no BS, no ulterior motive, no prepared statement, no "I'm the victim" comments. This time he was the victim.
An overreaction of a publicist, the overzealous Dallas police department, an estranged and strange relationship between star player and coach all led to Terrell Owens having his moment of clarity and credibility. The moment when he can say this is what he's been talking about all along. How if this were any other player in the NFL, there may have been some belief in the initial reports but the rush to judgment would have been totally different.
This was his boy-that-cried-wolf moment. Unlike that boy, T.O. lived to tell us about it. He survived for his vindication.
Because there is still that lingering belief that this isn't over and that this is just the beginning. And although media elite from Dan Le Batard to Sal Paolantonio believe Owens' side of the saga, there are millions who feel that the next dramatic T.O. story that comes out of Dallas will be less a case of confusion and miscommunication and more of the same that's become T.O.'s m.o.
As wrong as it was to instantly believe that Owens had attempted suicide, it would be naïve to think that something like this from him wouldn't be far-fetched. And more than the speculation of facts in this story, that's where the true tragedy rests.
As former Eagles fullback Jon Ritchie said on ESPNEWS, "[T.O.] would never do anything to hurt his chances to get back on that football field -- and committing suicide would probably hurt those chances."
Funny. And as crazy as this sounds, Terrell Owens probably needed something like this to happen to give himself a chance with the public and the media the next time something goes down. He needed this dramatic, over-sensationalized, falsely interpreted incident to help the persistent question of his character.
Terrell Owens needed something to be wrong about him to make him right with the world.
It's just sad, for us, that it took a report that he wanted to end his life to make our doubts his benefit.
Scoop Jackson is a national columnist for Page 2 and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. He appears regularly on "Quite Frankly" and other ESPN shows. He resides in Chicago. Sound off to Scoop and Page 2 here.