T.O. Shoulda Played Tennis

Posted on March 17, 2009

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Could you imagine Terrell Owens patrolling the base line at Wimbledon? With his incredible lateral movement and reach he’d be a terror. Imagine him coming to the net with that vertical jump, or the way he could wear out an opponent with his amazing stamina and work ethic. Most importantly, imagine Terrell Owens with NO TEAMMATES! That’s what this brother needs, a place where he can rely completely on himself and not have to cooperate with other human beings. It would be great for his wallet too, because T.O. gets no endorsement deals. However, tennis’ biggest on court distraction and most notorious whiner, John McEnroe, is also the figure with the most endorsement deals even years after his retirement. I’d rather see T.O. on clay or hard court than in another football game.


The sad saga that is Terrell Owens career could be summed up in every football coach’s cliché speech. Since you where playing boys and girls club ball with the helmets that were half your body size, your grizzled coach screamed, “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM!” On occasion that spelling has been challenged, when literally one player has carried an entire squad because he is that gifted (i.e. Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Wayne Gretsky, Barry Bonds). Unlike other major team sports football requires all 11 people to be on the same page. And when you do have that freak of nature that can single handedly change the direction of a football game, it needs to be someone who touches the ball within the first 2 seconds and can ad lib on his own (John Elway, Barry Sanders). Even then your teammates are your most valuable commodity. But of all the people on a football field, the wide receiver is the one that needs absolutely every one of his 10 team mates to do their job right before he has an inkling of a chance of thinking of possibly making a play.

Maybe receivers like T.O. lose perspective when they watch ESPN highlights. There they are, alone, in the middle of the field catching the ball. They forget about the other people 10 folks holding up 300 lb madmen, running precise routes or making the pinpoint pass. Maybe the prototypical wide receiver is a wanna be basketball player. http://i52.photobucket.com/albums/g18/bomaniarmah/nfl_u_owensterrell_580.jpg
A tweener, 6’2” to 6’4” blessed with outstanding physical skills that grew up idolizing Jordan in an era when the NBA went out of its way to promote individuals over team. (The emergence of the Pistons, Spurs and Celtics has only recently debunked the individualism in professional basketball). This kind of player is not enough of a field general to be a point guard (or quarterback), not a pure enough shooter to be strictly a two guard (Michael Redd or Ray Allen) and too short to be a legitimate swing man (James, Bryant or McGrady). His skills, however, fit football to a T (or a T.O.). Terrell is what happens when no one explains to him that each time he catches the ball it’s not him jumping from the foul line at the NBA slam dunk contest.

What’s even more disturbing is that he is unable to see that he is the common denominator in all the equations where he gets subtracted from the team. There is militaristic group think that you learn in high school about football; it’s why all football press conferences are an inane waste of time. It’s about working hard, supporting your teammates, being on the same page, reaching goals, etc and so on. These ethics are equally, if not more important, as important as your bench press, your 40 time and any other physical metric or personal drive.

You could spend hours debating the rankings of wide receivers all time between #3 and #20, but the position of #1 is undoubtedly Jerry Rice and #2 is unquestionably Terrell Owens. You cannot overstate Terrell’s incredible stats, work ethic and physical ability. Nor can you ignore how utterly king cobra/arsenic/anthrax poisonous he must be in the locker room. He has played for coaches, and with quarterbacks, with no Super Bowl rings that are willing to take years off their life in this stressful game, but aren’t willing to swallow Terrell Owens despite his game changing stats.

In the long run, it’s okay if TO never was or ever will be a good team mate. There are other ways he can be successful and fulfilled individual. Maybe he shoulda played tennis.

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