T.O.'s rants and raves won't fly in Philly

Terrell Owens finally got what he wanted, but do the Eagles and their fans realize what they've gotten in return?

Updated: March 17, 2004, 2:01 PM ET
By Ray Ratto | Special to ESPN.com

So everyone gets what they want. Terrell Owens proves yet again that screech-fest bitching always works no matter what anyone else thinks. The Baltimore Ravens get out of their predicament. The San Francisco 49ers get something that, by rights, they didn't really have coming.

And the Philadelphia Eagles fans get something new to boo.

See? Everyone goes home happy although we'll probably want to mood-ring the Eagles again in about eight months.

The Eagles are hoping for more cheers than jeers from T.O.
Owens, you see, played his predicament without subtlety but still brilliantly, proving every critical media type and NFL moralist to be dead wrong in public. The truth is as it has always been --- leverage is a wonderful thing, as long as you know you have it. Owens knew he did, and everyone who thought he was wrong was, well, wrong.

That having been said, he must now show that he can be happy enough to excel on a team that plainly belongs to someone else --- specifically, Donovan McNabb.

And unlike Baltimore, where the man is Ray Lewis, McNabb can make or break Owens by the simple act of throwing the ball to him, or not. And nobody in Philadelphia will question whatever McNabb's decision is.

You see, Owens learned a valuable lesson during his crypto-free agency period --- that he wins when he's loud, abusive, even hysterical, and always, always, always self-obsessed.

And he won big this time. He's not in San Francisco any more, and he's also not in Baltimore. He is in Philadelphia, which is where he said he wanted to be.

He may decide Friday that he'd actually rather be in Buffalo, or Carolina, or Kansas City. But for now, he got what he said he wanted.

Now we get to see if the Eagles got what they wanted.

Owens had numbers in San Francisco, of that there can be no question. But he had no happiness, and he proved it in every way he could think of. He complained. He refused to speak when he wasn't complaining. He took the occasional route off, and he took the occasional effort for the ball off, too.

He was good. He could have been better.

Now that flew, to an extent, in San Francisco, where the absence of a logical alternative forced the fans to grin and bear him.

Philadelphia is not nearly so forgiving. True, their wide receivers are of profoundly modest talent, but Eagle fans do not subscribe to the "we'll-take-what-we-can-get" theory, and never have. They want effort and production, and are downright homicidal when they don't get at least the effort.

In other words, Philadelphia can be a real bitch.

Owens has to know that, even if he didn't get the paperwork in on time. Philadelphia uses femurs for toothpicks, feelings for bar rags, and temper tantrums for kindling at the next effigy roast. Philadelphia does not mess around.

But Owens doesn't really understand that, because he can be a real bitch, too. Especially now that he's been emboldened doing things the way he does them.

He's going to want to know why he isn't on pace to catch 115 balls after five weeks. He's going to want to know why he doesn't get the ball every time he's open. He's going to want to know why the universe doesn't spin around him the way it did in San Francisco.

And he isn't going to take cheerfully to the answers, which are:

A --- Because Andy Reid said so.

B --- Because the universe spins around Donovan McNabb, that's why.

What makes it worse is, Philadelphia won't take cheerfully to his rebuttals. And unless Terrell Owens is a lot more amenable to pointed reviews of his work than he was with the 49ers, he'll be every bit as miserable as he was with the 49ers.

And he will delegate that misery.

In short, we are talking blood on the moon here, children. This marriage comes straight from Satan's left-hand suit pocket, and it will end very, very badly.

Of course, that's also what we thought about Owens' ability to wriggle out of his agent's apparent malfeasance, and we were all wrong about that. So maybe we are actually talking about milk and honey on toast, and a marriage that comes straight from Sid Gillman's film projector. Maybe this is actually a great deal for the Eagles and for Terrell Owens.

But that's not the way to bet. Trust us on that one, if you dare.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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