Friday, November 11, 2005

The Trouble With T.O.

The Trouble With T.O.

2:01 AM 11/11/05 Fri

By now, everyone on the Planet Earth knows what's hot in this season of the National Football League - and it ain't the games. It's Terrell "T.O." Owens, the outspoken hotshot Wide Receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, well he was until the past weekend. Owens has been suspended for the league maximum of four games, and after the suspension is over, he is to be deactivated for, in the words of Head Coach Andy Reid "conduct detrimental to the team". With the Eagles aready at a 4-4 record coming out of their horrid loss to the Washington Redskins - and only days away from their Monday Night Football rematch with their arch-rival Dallas Cowboys (who also handed the Birds a crushing defeat a few weeks back) - it seems highly unlikely that they will get anywhere near the Super Bowl without Owens. But, as sports and entertainment often does in our world nowadays, the TO story is bigger than just sports or football; it brings forth a whole range of issues for us all to deeply and seriously contemplate. Even the legendary Ralph Nader, probably the last person anyone would put in the same sentence with the word "football" has joined the fray of late, saying in writing to the NFL gods that TO's suspension should be rescinded on the grounds that the player has the right to freedom of speech.

With all the chatter on sports talk radio, the internet and television, it's hard to find someone who doesn't have an opinion one way or the other when it comes to Terrell Owens - you either love him or you hate him. He's the kind of polarizing figure that well, makes sports interesting afterall. I mean, let's face it - Cal Ripkin may have been a nice guy on and off the diamond, but that didn't help his Baltimore Orioles win any World Series, nor did it garner him any A-Rod type money either. In an earlier era, Ripkin would have fit right in, the good soldier type of at best moderate talent who, in the words of NBA coach Larry Brown "plays the right way" and who asks little in return. Owens, on the other hand, belongs to another generation of pro athelete, one who is not only brash and outspoken - but extremely talented. In a time of Free Agency and big, "more money than God" contracts and endorsements, guys like Owens can and often do write their own ticket. Or do they?

With Mars - planet both of Men and Sports - continuing its backward trek accross the skies, it's both helpful and insightful to take a closer look both at the man Terrell Owens, as well as the state of one of the few remaining "manly" endeavors left in early 21st century American life.

According to Wikipedia, TO was born on Dec 7, 1973, in Alexander City, Alabama. At present no birthtime is known, but just the Solarscope tells us all we need to see and expect to see in the life of such an extremely talented pro athelete at the highest levels of the game - note the highly active Cardinal t-square of Venus to Mars-Uranus. On top of that, Mars is the final dispositor of the chart, in its own Sign Aries, and, according to the Magi System, Owens was born with at least two Sports Aspects - Mars-Uranus and Venus-Mars. At 6'3'', 220lbs-plus, Owens is a rare bird at his position. He can play the slot, go up the sideline, and is big and strong enough to break tackles of Strong Safeties. Known to be an early riser and a hard worker, Owens takes careful care of his body, is in keen, top-notch physical condition, and can be counted on to come through on Game Day. No one can deny his talent, skills, dedication to training and desire to win.

Yet, with his Sun in Sagittarius, the Moon in Taurus and Mercury in Scorpio, TO also has something of a reputation of being a bit too outspoken for today's football powers that be; prior to his coming to the Philadelphia Eagles, Owens ran into a bit of trouble with his former team, the San Francisco 49ers, often taking issue with his Quaterback, Jeff Garcia, coaching staff and others. Students of football history know that today's football industry is patterned after the Cleveland Browns of old, where the head coach and owner Paul Brown transformed the nascent gridiron sport from a dirt lot game played by coalmining yahoos, to a respectable matchup businessmen in Brooks Brothers suits could go to proudly. Brown's "system" did wonders in many ways for his team and for football overall, but it all came with a price - one of them being, that players were seen less as individuals in their own right, but as human cogs in the football machine; they could be replaced, and often were if any of them dared question Brown's motives and philosophy. With all the hubbub continuing to swirl around the TO controversey, one gets the feeling that this is at least in part, what could be the case here in Philly.

Whether you think Owens is the posterboy for all that has gone wrong in today's professional sports, or if you think that Owens has a right to exist due to merit, one thing is certain - that more men will be plunked down in front on the TV come this Sunday than will be in church. Why are men so attracted to sports in general, and football in particular? If you grasp at the easy, trite Martian straws of testosterone and machismo, you might miss the much larger Martian reason. And that is...
...because men like what has become known as the Rule of Law. You see, Sports is one of the few places left in the world where rules are the most important thing, and merit is its handmaiden, so to speak. If you can do the job, and do it better than anyone else, you've earned yourself a spot on the squad. If doesn't have anything to do with how you look, or what your name sounds like - talent is all that matters. For many of today's men, buffeted about by things like Affirmative Action and Political Correctness, the direct rules of the sporting game are a welcome respite from a rapidly shifting and changing world.

While Venus likes compassion and Jupiter likes theory, Mars likes results; and being able to do the job better than anyone else is right up Mars' alley. Afterall, Mars represents the principle of competition, something that both Venus and Jupiter eschews, on the grounds that such pursuits are beneath them in some way. The term "proving ground", is a decidely Martian phrase. Merit, is another.
In the wake of the many, many, many scandals that have bedeviled pro sports over the years - from Ty Cobb's racism to Babe Ruth's womanizing, to the 1919 Chicago White Sox's selling themselves out to Pete Rose's gambling against his own team; to Ray Carruth's murder of his pregnant girlfriend to Ray Lewis' murder trial, to Ron Artest's hardwood brawl last year - one would think, in the overall scheme of things, Owen's spat with the Eagles would be more of a nuisance than grounds for him losing his job. Afterall, unlike in the aforementioned cases, no one was killed or hurt (physically at least), no major ethical rules were broken, and Owens contribution to his team is at least as important as some of the other pro jocks alluded to.

But, as the Oliver Stone directed film, "Any Given Sunday" vividly shows, and what Susan Faludi talks about in her book "Stiffed", pro sports has changed mightily since the days of Lynn Swann and Joe Montana; along with increased media presence and fatter paychecks for jocks, pro sports has also become Feminized. By that, I mean, that no longer are things like pure merit considered, or loyalty to one's team (in a sport, like football, where you can be cut after just one season, no matter how hard you play for the franchise), but rather, whether you are the right "fit" for the team, or, in the case of Owens, whether you say something that "offends" someone in the front office. Anyone with half a brain and a rudimentary understanding of football knows, that the Eagles have a better chance of winning the PGA Open than the Super Bowl without Owens; yet, they are willing to sacrifice the one overarching goal of any team on the Alter of PC - WIN.

Yes, I know this come as a shock to some of you reading this, but allow me to let you in on a secret - if you're a pro athelete, the goal - your ONLY goal - is (or should be), to be a Champion. If you play golf, your goal is to win the Masters. If you're basketball player, your goal is win the NBA title. If you're a hockey player, your goal is to win the Stanely Cup. And if you're in the National Football League, your goal is to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy and have the finger of your choice fitted for one of those rings that Terry Bradshaw wears. That's it. There is no other reason for you to be in the game other than that. And here's something else I know is a real shocker for some of you - being a "nice guy", "class act" or otherwise having good home training - while a plus - will NOT help achieve the goal of winning that coveted championship.

Talent, dedication to training, showing up for Game Day, does.


On that score, NO ONE can question Owens; as we all know, last year TO came back early from what could have been a season ending, if not career ending, injury; his doctor was four-square against Owens' early return to the gridiron, but TO came back in time for the Super Bowl showdown against the New England Patriots and made the game a close one - he did his part. That he mentioned that he felt that quarterback Donovan McNabb "choked" afterward is irrelevant - but true. In fact, and most insider football folks know this, if McNabb had indeed put out the same effort as TO, a Lombardi Trophy just might be sitting in the display case down at the Linc.

The other day, Owens issued an apology in a press conference held outside his home in southern New Jersey; immediately afterward, the press and sports talk radio was abuzz with comments from callers and pundits alike. Many were happy that TO was deepsixed, citing that this "sends the right message to kids that they have to respect authority". Yea, that sounds good, but I'm not sure such pithy, self-serving lines really gets at the issue here. The real issue is that many people couldn't stand the fact that TO was not only very good, but spoke up for himself, right or wrong. Afterall, if he was Todd Pinkston, nobody would care what he thought or did.

The real message being sent to kids - indeed, to us all - isn't whether one should or shouldn't respect authority - but that no matter how hard you work; no matter how talented, experienced and competent you are; no matter what your level of loyalty and dedication is, even at the potential of risking life and limb - that all of this takes a backseat in favor of whether one is willing to parrot the party line and go along to get along. And in light of the Eagles' front office strategies over the years (like not wanting to renegotiate Owen's contract, the issue that led up to all of this in the first place), one has to seriously question their committment to winning.

Perhaps looking good, sounding good and not offending anybody is more important.

It's a surprise the Red Planet in the sky isn't doing backflips.



Blogger minnie (haha) said...

Hey there Mu - uh - not everyone on Planet Earth knows who TO is - believe it or not!!!!


10:48 AM  

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