By John Campbell
Special to Page 3
Terrell Owens and his celebratory antics, I began wondering what Alexander the Great would do if he scored a touchdown on national television.While watching football last weekend, I saw a few ads for Oliver Stone's latest flick, "Alexander." Engrossed in the hype of NFL Sunday, more specifically
One thing would be certain -- the guy would be damn sure to celebrate.
After all, Alexander believed he was a descendent of the gods. He assumed it was his destiny to conquer the world. These traits considered, I doubt he had a humble moment in his life. I'd also bet a buck that he'd be the first to applaud a performer like Owens.
Like him or not, No. 81 and performers like him are the lifeblood of art, entertainment, and yes, football.
Quentin Tarantino. Robert Rauschenberg. Eminem. Terrell Owens. They are successful because of their unwavering confidence and commitment to their art forms. It is their quest for originality and their willingness to be rejected that sparks trends, turns highlight reels and keeps pundits spinning. They inspire us with their creative individuality.
Emotional outbursts and celebrations, both spontaneous and premeditated, bring fans closer to the stage. As a fan, I want to feel the emotions on the field. I want to be inspired. Where's the fun in someone who doesn't erupt into an emotional state when they've just broken off a 60-yarder?
Give me Owens breaking it down like Ray Lewis, Joe Horn on his cellie and Warren Sapp doing his best "Beyonce." I'll take these outrageous eruptions over a stoic Peyton Manning touchdown toss -- any day and twice on Sundays.
Similarly, give me the gratuitous gore, violence, sex and drugs of a Tarantino film -- it's undeniably what differentiates him from the mainstream. Tarantino creates according to his own sensibilities and not the likes or dislikes of film critics.
Freedom of expression should not exclude the athletic realm. It's not as if referees threw flags at Cuba Gooding Jr. and Roberto Benigni for their exuberant acceptance speeches at the Academy Awards. Can you imagine penalizing Adrien Brody for kissing Halle Berry?
Or throwing a flag at Robert Rauschenberg? The ex-Marine and artistic outsider literally helped reshape the modern art world by trusting his impulses and combining random physical items with a respect for traditional artistic methodology.
In 1959, Rauschenberg put himself on the map with a creation he called a "combine." This pioneer piece used a stuffed angora goat, a tire, a police barrier, the heel of a shoe, a tennis ball, and paint. Rauschenberg's originality eventually changed the way art and real life coexisted.
OK, a touchdown dance may not be a work of art or an Oscar caliber-performance, but great entertainers, including athletes, find ways to display their handiwork to make every scene, and every play, seem like their last -- the grand finale, so to speak.
By sharing their voice and various forms of expression, players like Owens refuse to be insipid, feckless ciphers.
Think back to when Dr. Dre introduced America to Marshall Mathers, a.k.a. Eminem and Slim Shady. His crude and offensive lyrics both appalled and compelled listeners of all ages. He mocked pop icons such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera for conforming to trends set by society.
Determined to be heard, Eminem set himself apart by relentlessly crafting his artform, refusing to conform and staying at the top of his trade. Suddenly, he's more than a loud-mouth punk -- he's an artistic and marketing genius. Once he got your attention, he struck while the iron was hot.
Consider the many reasons T.O. preens and poses in pay-dirt. Owens realizes his own mortality. He's aware that his time in the spotlight is fleeting. Despite all his lifting, cardio-conditioning and pregame Swiss-ball stretching, he knows he's one Ki-Jana Carter or Willis McGahee mishap away from football obscurity.
For artists and entertainers, humility should be considered superfluous. Many players who showboat are just trying to make the most of a good thing. So don't hate on them. In both sports and stage, being humble rarely merits a call-back.
To quote a friend, "If you don't toot your own horn once and a while, someone's going to use it as a spittoon."
Perhaps the greatest example of self-branding is "Neon" Deion Sanders. Coming out of Florida State, Deion ran like the wind and covered like a shadow ... but couldn't use his shoulder pads to save his life. No
With high-stepping, gherri curls, and a Mr. T gold chain kit, "Primetime" defied the customary role of a cornerback. He made his own rules. He was hardly responsible for containing a sweep to his side and as a two-sports athlete, he oftentimes skipped training camp for batting practice.
Sanders was a one-of-a-kind, dual-sport, self-marketing genius. Laugh if you will, but Sanders swaggered his way to millions of dollars worth of endorsements and two Super Bowl rings.
Most importantly, he still makes it look fun. And lots of people hate him for it.
Naysayers may insist, "Barry Sanders never had to show off!" Indeed. There's no denying Sanders was a phenomenal on-field talent who entertained merely by playing the game.
However, while Sanders was always capable of a pulse-pounding performance as a running back, his human appeal to fans was a flat-line. Truth be told, enduring Barry Sanders' Hall of Fame induction speech was 10 times more painful than watching Horn run up his cellular bill.
Back to Terrell Owens ...
Last week's contest against the Ravens was a make or break opportunity for Owens. And, once again, his big-play ability was validated. And once again, he celebrated. And made plenty of folks mad.
By mocking Ray Lewis' ritualistic pregame dance (and arguably doing a better job at it), Owens was only putting himself in harms way. Afterall, No. 52 has the power to do what many only preach -- shut him up and keep him out of the endzone.
Since the incident, Owens has apologized for nothing. Heck, he even appeared on ESPN's SportsCenter wearing an I (heart) T.O. T-shirt.
Does it really surprise you that he is his own biggest fan?
Owens leads the NFL in touchdown grabs, torn down signage, and on-field ab-routines. Good for him. He's soaking in the limelight bestowed upon him.
Like Alexander leading the front or an artist putting paint on a blank canvas, T.O. takes a risk every time he takes the field. What's important is that performers like him roll the dice with great passion and inspire us to do the same.