By Paul Katcher
Special to Page 3

The Philadelphia Eagles head cross-state this weekend to meet the Pittsburgh Steelers for a matchup of true NFL heavyweights. Unfortunately, much of the pre-game attention will go to Terrell Owens. Unfortunate because Owens, at least on the field, is a selfish jerk.

Terrell Owens
If T.O. wants to perform, let him star in a Budweiser commercial.

Why sugarcoat it? He's a jerk. That's the image he's crafted time and again with end-zone (and, on one occasion, mid-field) celebrations and, more accurately, taunting antics. All the while knowing that's the only impression millions of TV watchers will ever get of him. And the foolishness will continue, because that's what he tells us.

Owens is not a crusader. He's not some tortured and persecuted entertainer. He's a bully.

He's stealing from those who toiled decades before him to create the most popular and financially sound professional sports league in America. Football is a brutal, violent game, but it should still be played at the highest level of sportsmanship.

The only reason Owens is even afforded an opportunity to make millions playing a game is because of class-acts like Art Rooney, Wellington Mara and Pete Rozelle. Like Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and Marv Levy. Like Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown and Walter Payton.

Owens has turned their game into his own second-rate comedy act, because he's a lot more like Johnny Knoxville than Jerry Seinfeld. Talented comics make everyone laugh together, while bullies laugh at others' expense.

I doubt the Steelers find him amusing. Cheers to them having some fun of their own.

In seven games, Jerome Bettis has 52 carries and eight touchdowns. In Week 1, the Bus rushed five times for only one yard ... and three touchdowns.

Bettis is the ultimate team player. His role has never been smaller, yet he continues to contribute, both on the field and off. His attitude and performance is reminiscent of true champions like Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert and Joe Greene.

Jerome Bettis
Hop on "The Bus" -- he'll show you how to carry yourself on the field.
Owens is, of course, enjoying a successful season on the field. But that doesn't justify the baiting and taunting: "If you don't like what I'm doing, then stop me from doing it." We cut Owens a lot of slack because he's entertaining. Hey, if I want that kind of nonsensical entertainment, I'll rent a Steven Siegel movie.

Bring back George Teague! Teague, who's now coaching high school football, was the Dallas Cowboys' defensive back who leveled Owens at mid-field after he sprinted to the 50-yard-line star to preen and bask in his own glory.

Owens was subsequently suspended by the 49ers for one week -- Teague keeps a snapshot of the hit in his office.

You may find Owens' antics clever and entertaining, but really, they're mean and selfish. But remember, it's possible to be a first-rate athlete and a first-rate sportsman.

Paul Katcher is a freelance writer based in New York City. He welcomes questions, comments and web links to interesting sites and news items at
pkatcher@mindspring.com.