Monday, September 29, 2008

T.O. Undoes a Year of Image Building

By Scott Lowe
API Management & Marketing

I was never one of the believers.

For the past several weeks I sat back and listened to the chatter about how the Dallas Cowboys were the favorites to win the Super Bowl - or that at the least they were clearly the class of the NFC. I also heard quite a bit about how Terrell Owens had transformed himself and become a good citizen.

This is the same team that relies on a quarterback who seems to have enormous physical tools combined with an extremely fragile psyche and an inability to maintain his concentration in critical situations as well as Owens, one of professional sports' most talented and volatile athletes.

It's amazing how much of a difference a day can make. After a surprising 26-24 loss to the upstart Redskins yesterday, suddenly the Cowboys are being portrayed a team with internal issues and defensive shortcomings. Clearly Dallas still is one of the teams to beat in the NFC. They have big, strong offensive and defensive lines and depth at every offensive skill position. Yes, they have issues on the defensive side of the ball, but what NFL team doesn't have deficiencies at this point? The demise of the Cowboys is as much of a media overreaction as were the sentiments that Owens was a changed man.

I'll admit that over the past year Owens had made strides as a person and a teammate. It appeared as though he was trying to build his image. He hadn't complained about how he was being used, hadn't pointed fingers at teammates or coaches following losses, hadn't been involved in any off-field issues and was generally keeping a low profile off the field while putting up amazing numbers on the field. But, like anyone fighting internal issues, people with a track record tend to fall back into their past behavior patterns when faced with emotionally charged or otherwise stressful situations.

The guy who had torn two teams apart and publicly ripped two quarterbacks who had helped him put up Pro Bowl numbers was a time-bomb waiting to go off. I knew it. I'm just not sure why the "experts" didn't know it. The worst part for Owens was that all of the work he had done to rebuild his tarnished image went out the window with one five-minute press conference.

Following the loss to the Redskins, despite his team's still-impressive 3-1 record and the fact that he had touched the football nine times in the game and that the ball was thrown his way on another 10 occasions, Owens decided to complain about not being used enough. This despite a first half in which he was blanketed by Shawn Springs, a solid cornerback who is not quite the player he used to be, to the point that he appeared to give up on more than one occasion. And despite the fact that he flat-out dropped one ball and didn't go after another pass for fear of getting hit.

Owens was seemingly targeted on almost every offensive play in the third quarter, including a touchdown pass, as the Cowboys rallied from a halftime deficit. But as the Redskins seized control and the time was ticking down, Owens could be seen on the sidelines by himself with a look of disgust on his face. You could just sense that something was burning inside him and that it was not going to end well. He looked like a kid who had dessert taken away.

With the cameras rolling in the locker room Owens decided to question the game plan and express his frustration at not being utilized more even though he was featured more than any other player on his team. Because of a few choice words spoken out of frustration after a difficult loss, suddenly a team that had been penciled into the Super Bowl was thrown into the midst of an unnecessary controversy with the regular season only one-fourth complete.

Owens' comments have been replayed and analyzed by every talking football head in the country over the past 30 hours or so. He has been chastised, questioned and told by former players to "just shut up." One five-minute interview in which he let his emotions and built-up frustration get the best of him has undone more than a year's worth of time and effort spent to improve his image. Since T.O. seems to struggle with this lesson, perhaps other professional athletes can learn from his mistakes. Someone should.

1 comment:

Gail said...

I can't begin to think of how a Cowboys fan looks at his club these days. Jerry Jones doesn't just take "chances" on these players, but has built a playground for them. Now, to his credit, the likes of Michael Irvin, learned how living responsibly could benefit his career and life outside of football. Have any "risk" players since him changed their ways? T.O. is still blabbering and Pacman Jones is headed to rehab and a suspension. So, Jerry, you get a few games out of these guys...then what?

Is this what happens when an owner just has too much money -- or is it what happens when he just wants headlines EVERY DAY?