The Terrell Owens Hall of Fame Debate Keeps Poppin'
The Hall of Fame debate on Terrlel Owens continues to pop like instant popcorn. The debate ranges from whether his skills were overrated, whether he was actually a bad teammate or not, or if he’s even better than the current crop of Hall of Fame receivers. Owens has current HOFers on his side (Steve Young, Jason Taylor, and James Lofton) and others not (Dan Fouts).
However, the debate about Owens leaves out a particularly large part of the equation: Owens' autonomy. The same way Owens worked like a mad person to get his body in a condition to play in the Super Bowl after a broken leg (still a comeback story for the books), Owens had control over much of what now holds him out of the HOF. It isn’t equitable to take to task the voters, who face criticism for their vote virtually every year, instead of placing the brunt of the responsibility on the man himself. Owens made his own bed.
Owens benefited from wielding a double-edged sword: the coin of PR. Owens name was always in the news, on the lips of fans and pundits alike. Whether it was spiking on the star in Dallas, the Sharpie, or his many sideline sound bites (“I love me some me!”), Owens knew how to enter the public discourse. Owens built a reputation on it. Terrell Owens became TO because of it.
Rightfully then, TO should bear the brunt of wielding the tool as recklessly as he did. This ability to stay relevant and in the public eye had its downside. Owens would often do things that kept him in the headlines that were positively head scratching. The driveway sit-ups (“Next question…”), insinuating that Jeff Garcia was gay, getting into a fight with former Eagle Hugh Douglas, spitting at DeAngelo Hall, and nearly killing himself by overdosing on Hydrocodone (intentionally or no).
So when arguments are made in Owens' defence, those arguments are being made because Owens instigated them. Arguing Owens wasn’t the first player to hold out for a new contract ignores that he was like the Occupy movement of contract holdouts. Arguing that Owens wasn't a bad teammate ignores that Owens made sure to put names to disses (Donovan McNabb surely doesn’t forget how it was him puking during the Super Bowl...or that Brett Favre would have been a better QB for the Eagles...please, I can go on). Owens did all these things for himself.
To take a stance that Owens Hall of Fame snub was somehow a terrible injustice is to ignore that sports (as in life), you do not get rewarded for burnt earth policies. The discourse that swirled around Owens during his career was always pretty damn chaotic and the reaction oftentimes fair. For Owens, saying nothing was never an option - and it's why everything he said either benefited him or hurt him.
Meaning, unfortunately, that Owens is the Schrodinger’s Cat of Hall of Fame candidates. He’s as in as a candidate could be, but floats outside of those halls. If you close your eyes, you can see his bust right there among the others. Of course, if we imagine as John Madden does, that at night the busts come alive and have conversations, you can guess whose bust would inevitably draw the conversation to himself.
There is no yin without a yang. For Terrell Owens, there is no ‘TO’ without the antics – and there is no TO in the Hall of Fame for the very same reason.
Rhys Dowbiggin @Rdowb
Rhys has worked six years in the public relations industry rubbing shoulders with movie stars (who ignored him) to athletes (who tolerated him). He likes tiki-taka football, jelly beans, and arguing with Bruce about everything.