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Alexandria, Virginia, USA
September 18
I'm a liberal secular humanist who enjoys writing, reading, playing video games and watching sports. I am a former member of the Armed Services who now enjoys the sweet sweet freedom of civilian life. My blog will be centered mostly on politics, football and video games. I'm not a professional hater, but I am a highly ranked amateur. Also, yes, I am a girl.


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MARCH 9, 2009 11:26AM

Uh oh. Here comes T.O.

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Uh oh. Here comes T.O.

Welcome to the sports fan's dilemma.

There I was, composing a post a few days ago that started like this:
Please DO let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. First of all, allow me to say in my best Nelson Muntz voice, "Ha ha!" to the news that Terrell Owens has been cut from the Dallas Cowboys. I can't say that I'm sad to see him go (though I hate the Cowboys, so it was a nice bit of synergy having a hated team AND a hated player together, so that I might better focus my laser-like hate).
I was planning to speculate on where he might go next, with the toxic Oakland Raiders as the most likely destination. However, I was busy and I put off posting that because I got distracted. I was about to pick it up again, when I logged on and saw this news: "Terrell Owens shuffling off to Buffalo" on Sports Illustrated.

After I finished running out to my front yard, dropping down on my knees and screaming "Noooooooooooo!" to the heavens, I tried to contemplate how this would affect my fandom in the coming 2009 NFL season. Now, my analysis of whether this is a good signing, strategically speaking, for the Bills and TO is one matter (which I'll do at the end of the post). But what about the larger issue of TO's continuing dickitude over the course of his career and the fact that I took great pleasure in mocking fans who blindly embrace jerk players the minute they sign with their club?

It is the nature of fans, I suppose, to blindly love their team. It's an attitude of "He may be a villian, but he's OUR villian, god dammit." Hence, the love for Barry Bonds in San Francisco, TO for the first few years of his tenure with the Cowboys, and so on. Still, even as villians go, TO stands head and shoulder above most of the usual suspects in the league. At least if a guy is being villianous, it's usually in the service of the team. Dancing on the star at Dallas may have almost provoked a riot, but ultimately it was an insult to the enemy, not to his own team. Others may hurt their team by getting unsportsmanlike penalty flags, but they are at least providing a small mental boost to their team if they acquire that penalty with a particularly hilarious and inspiring celebration (think the popcorn stunt, or the sharpie in the sock stunt, that TO has pulled in the past). With Terrell Owens, however, the ultimate sin he has committed 3 different times now has been the utter destruction of team cohesion, as each time he ultimately attacked his QB verbally in the press and turned teammates against one another in the locker room. How can a fan truly support a player like that, when deep down, we all sort of think it's only a matter of time before it happens again? How can you support a team that's stupid enough to think they'll be the exception instead of the rule this time around?

All these concerns aside, here's why it'll probably work out for the Bills:
  • Terrell Owens has only been signed to a one year deal. He usually takes 2-3 years on a team before he really starts acting up. I assume TO will be on his best behavior for the first year. If he sucks, it's very easy to just cut him next season.
  • Because it's only a 1 year deal, TO will probably do his best to have a great season. I doubt he wants to stay in Buffalo long. This is his chance to have a gangbuster year, so he can go sign with another club next season for more money/prestige.
  • They desperately needed to inject life into the offense. This is a team with only 26 TD passes in 2 YEARS, with only 15 of those going to WRs.
  • Not only is the offense bad, but the club suffers from being in a small market, and therefore they desperately need some excitement on the team in general. The team has struggled since the hey-day of Jim Kelly and company, and outside of Western NY, no one really cares about the Bills. This signing brings national attention to the club, so Bills fans outside the state now may actually get to see the Bills broadcast as a featured game of the week more than once this season.
  • Even though his skills are dimished, TO still needs to be respected by opposing teams. This means that Lee Evans will be open more. Evans has struggled with no other quality WR to take the pressure off him.
  • Owens is a physical specimen, and he gives young Trent Edwards a huge target to throw at. This is a big deal in the AFC East, where the NY Jets are starting to look like a very dangerous defense under new head coach Rex Ryan. Edwards will need all the safety valves he can get in the face of pass rushers like Bart Scott.
The Bills have been so lowly, it's tempting for a fan to want to see them succeed at any cost. Doesn't poor old Western NY deserve something good for a change? I can see why fans find it in themselves to embrace the most unlikely "heroes". Ultimately, though, for me personally, there's still some lines I can't cross. While I still hope that someday the Bills get their sh*t together and win the big one, while TO is on the team, my affections shall lie elsewhere.

Just say "No" to T.O.
side note: my review of Dollhouse, episode 4, will be up later today or early tomorrow. Sneak peak: I loved it.
Update: the always excellent Peter King over at Sports Illustrated has a great article up about the Terrell Owens/Bills situation.

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My condolences. I give management four weeks into the season before they realize they've made a horrible mistake. Then again, I'm a Bears fan, so I'm well accquainted with poor management decisions.
If I were about to turn 91 like Ralph Wilson is, I'd give TO a chance. He always preforms well during the first year of his contracts. That being said, I'm not going to be 91. This is going to blow up in Dick Jauron's face.
I do think T.O. will behave this year with the Bills, OEsheepdog. I guess my point is, even if this is a successful experiment for the Bills, I still feel uneasy supporting them in any way, b/c I think T.O. is the epitome of bad sportsmanship and selfishness. Even if he's on his best behavior for Buffalo, that doesn't mean I have to like him.
He's going to help the Bills. So what if he's a prima donna, he always plays hard, plays hurt, wants to succeed and wants to win. The Cowboys game plans screwed all that up. The guy is a good citizen and doesn't make problems outside the locker room. You should be glad you have him.

As a diehard Giants fan and a Cowboy hater from since before I was born, it's hard for me to say that about TO. I'm glad he's out of our division. You guys should be jumping for joy, IMO.
Ah, but John Boni, you say "he's a good citizen and doesn't make trouble outside the locker room." That's fine, but the Bills aren't a charity organization, or the spokespeople for world peace. They're a football team, and as such, good conduct INSIDE the locker room is just as (if not more) important as how one conducts oneself in private life.

My own feelings as an individual fan go like this: I'd rather have a team of lovable losers who are quality sportsmen than have a team of high performing poor sports. That's just me, though. Obviously, I enjoy winning, and want my home team to do well. But as a fan and an athlete, I put "good teammate" at the top of my list of desirable qualities. And that's not just some moral high-ground point I'm making. You need only look at the Patriots as a model for what happens when players start being all about the team and NOT about individual stats.
For T.O., the "T" in Team is all about him. If T.O. would just shut up and play then he will be an asset to the Bills (what are the chances of that happening - zero). Otherwise, T.O. will revert to his old ways and be more of an ASS than an asset.
You summed it up nicely, but I must confess I've always liked T.O. far more than his locker-room cancerness warrants. Why? Well, part is his background story (pretty damn scary, if memory serves), and the fact that he totally leaves it on the field. This ain't no Randy "I take plays off if my number ain't called" Moss (or at least pre-Belicheat Randy). I can still recall some amazing T.O. blocks.

I understand why you're upset, but if Rex wasn't in his first year I'd have wanted us to take a chance on him. Now we're stuck with either Maclin in the draft or hoping to win the Anquan sweepstakes.
RickyB, I highly recommend you read "Boys Will Be Boys", which details the Cowboys of the early 90s. One of the most interesting characters in that is Michael Irvin, who is great example of a not-always-so-nice guy who still was a stellar teammate. It's a nice counterpoint to the Terrell Owens situation of today. Like Owens, Irvin came from a terrible background and had to rise above. Like Owens, Irvin was a notorious hard worker. Like Owens, Irvin had his share of altercations with teammates. However, unlike Owens, Irvin understood the concept of team. For all his bravado, Irvin cared about WINNING most of all, and would gladly see a teammate get a TD catch instead of him, if it meant winning the game.
Oh I agree. That's why Michael Irvin has three rings to T.O.'s none, and was part of a tandem that gets mentioned with the great duos. Terrell is seriously fucked up in the head, but he's a joy to watch play. Also, eventually these guys begin to understand the ring means more than anything. I hope it happens to Terrell.

As for background - I dunno about Irvin, but from what I read, T.O's childhood was like something out of flowers in the attic.
I'm a Pats fan who has always respected the classiness of the Bills organization. I think this will backfire based simply on the fact that Edwards/Losman are not on a par with the other quarterbacks who've thrown it TO's way. I imagine he will get frustrated very quickly. The Bills deserve better than to have this headcase blow up their season.
I really think T.O. is about the team more than the media says. The man's just emotional (some say he's bipolar) and he's an extreme competitor. He hates losing.

Like others have said, he always shows up in shape. He plays hurt. He never gives a half-ass effort on the field or during the offseason. He gets in trouble with his mouth only when his team is losing. He knows he's a once-in-a-generation talent and when he's not utilized AND the team is losing, he has lashed out in the past. Of course, none of us really know what goes on in the locker room when the cameras aren't rolling. Plus, T.O. takes more heat than anyone just because of his reputation.

I see the T.O. media circus at least partly as the "Mike Bibby strategy" (Bibby, the veteran playoff-tested point guard of the Atlanta Hawks, led Atlanta to its first playoff berth in a decade last year after coming to town in a midseason deal with Sacramento. Before the Boston playoff series, Bibby ran off his mouth to effectively take pressure off of his less experienced teammates. Boston and national media outlets had a field day, but Atlanta ultimately took the eventual champs to 7 games--an impressive feat no one predicted)

T.O's signing is unquestionably a tremendous boon for Buffalo. You heard it here first: if T.O., Evans and Lynch stay healthy, Lynch will be one of the top 3 rushers in the league next season. The King article says it all: Edwards wanted him. It's good to feel wanted (especially if you're as emotional as T.O.)

There is one thing worse than the total homer who suddenly embraces the chaotic player when he signs with his/her team: the fair-weather fan that jumps ship over something small (a T.O. signing) or even something big (when the owner pretends like he doesn't know about his $70 million dollar franchise quarterback's off field activities and proceeds to throw the team's most exciting player ever under the damn bus). I'm still a Falcons fan. Give it a few days. You'll be cheering for the Bills this fall.
plus, at least the Bills didn't sign Ocho Cinco...
Buffalo still has a team?

I thought they moved to CFL in the 90's.
Let's remember that locker room strife is often blown out of proportion and made more than what it is. In TO's case, he's a great story and the media is on his tail more than any other player.

As I and now Edgar has said, this is a good pickup for the Bills. If your QB can get the ball downfield, you'll be happy.
TO had to GO. His high-energy drama is better suited for a soap opera a NFL football field. Unless he delivers a productive year to his Buffalo-based employers, as you've mentioned, he'll be forced to take his sideshow elsewhere should his services even be desirable by then.
Let's just look at it this way.

Everyone knows Owens has talent. He's a very good receiver, although he does suffer from a case of alligator arms.

But everywhere he's gone, he's caused problems. On the field, he does his job. But his need for attention causes all sorts of distractions teams do not need.

That does not a championship team make.

And I cannot believe that Buffalo has only 26 touchdown passes in the past TWO years. Sheesh, Philip Rivers had more than that (34) just this season alone!
Congratulations! TO will make an excellent excuse when the team looses a few games. Mr. Jones is going to really miss him. The Bills will need to stock up on Kleenex in the locker room when TO has a melt-down, or 2 or 3 or...Cheers!
"when the owner pretends like he doesn't know about his $70 million dollar franchise quarterback's off field activities and proceeds to throw the team's most exciting player ever under the damn bus)."

You think Blank knew that Vick was killing puppies?
Ah, glory! Football chat -- Buffalo Bills football chat -- at OS. What more astounding phenomenon than that to demonstrate the emotional attraction people have about T.O.? As so many smart & worthy comments at that -- OS puts ESPN & to shame on that score.

I hardly know where to begin. Mad, you nailed the pros and cons perfectly. Initially, I shared your dismay as well. I've always been proud of the Bills' stated philosophy of character first. When applied to the Super Bills, it seemed the secret to the team's success. But there's more than a bit of myth involved there. Not all the storied guys were locker room saints. Egos ran rampant. There was division. It took a lot of effort to overcome. And we fans were all rewarded.

In the past 10 years, though, the character-first mantra hasn't seemed to produce much in the way of entertaining football. I'm not a win-at-all-costs guy, but 10 years of dreariness on the field gets wearing. The Bills were once lovable winners, despite the SB jinx. Losers who can't stop losing aren't lovable for very long.

That's why I was surprised to find myself getting excited about the signing, for all the reasons you list. I've been a Bills fan all my adult life and frankly, I can't imagine turning my back on them for any reason. (Toronto looms, but not this year.)

Also, I'm not sure about your Patriots analogy Mad. If there's a more despicable character in pro football than Bill Belichick, I'll eat my Go Bills banner without benefit of chicken wing sauce. Think, just think about beating the Patriots this season. T.O. makes that a distinct possibility.

Sheldon: Jauron -- who I like and admire -- may have his hands full. But his hands would be even fuller if the team had to settle for Joey Galloway or draft a rookie for the #2 spot.

John: Right on. He's got a work ethic the equal of anyone's in the league. He wants to win. In a sense, he's on probation and I think that'll keep him sharp.

Geoff: The Bills' season is already blown without a top #2.

Ricky: You're right. He's a joy to watch, something I've always had to admit. Now I can watch and take pleasure in his abilities because he's no longer a Cowboy.

Edgar: I think yours is a crisply dispassionate assessment of the situation and a good one. I'm a newspaper reporter and sometimes how much my brethren actually see the locker room "cancer" as it takes its toll. I think there's a lot of second-hand sourcing at play over the years, rumor-mongering and worse, not to mention the high-pressure pack mentality at play that's part & parcells (couldn't resist) of the big-media markets.

PS - I don't agree that Mad's any kind of fair-weather fan. She may be right in her final assessment, I hope she's not, but I sure do understand her doubts and fears. Being a Bills fan teaches you all about such stuff.

My final two cents? This signing isn't like the Farve deal, where he had to learn a new system and the entire team had to adjust to his temperment. All T.O. really has to do is learn the lingo and show that he's still got his stuff. Then the fun begins.

Let me know when the next Bills-chat happens.
Edgar, I do think that the TO situation will end fine for the Bills, at least for this season. The fact that Edwards advocated for the signing will go a long way towards establishing a decent relationship.

However, I think you define "fair weather fan" a bit strangely. To me, a fair weather fan is one that only comes around when the team gets good, and then bails when they aren't doing well. I cheered for the Bills even when they sucked. My problem now is not that I think the Bills will be bad. In fact, I'm pretty sure they're going to be good.

Aaron, I've never been in a locker room. However, I'm an avid sports fan, and have read many great writers who HAVE been in locker rooms. While I take all "insider information" with a grain of salt, there are just too many reports (many of which have been confirmed by players and coaches) about Terrell Owens's behavior as a teammate to ignore the obvious pattern here. As they say, "Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a trend."

Also, let's not ignore the selfish statements and behavior straight out of the horse's mouth. How soon we forget the spectacle TO caused in Philly (my favorite moment being that bizarre workout he did in his driveway).

Jeremiah - good to see another Buffalo person around here. In regards to the Patriots, that just illustrates my point. It's one thing to accept a" villain" as a fan when it benefits your team. I mean, a lot of people considered Rodney Harrison one of the dirtiest players in the game, but the players and fans of New England loved him, because he did those questionable things in service of team. By all accounts, though, he was a loyal teammate. The TO situation is a bit more problematic, as often his bad behavior directly impacts his OWN team for the worst.
I think the Bills played it right. They've got a one year contract with Owens. He will be highly motivated to do well. If he does well, then it is a nice pickup. And if he doesn't?

Well, it's a one year deal. So they cut him loose at the end of the season and that's it.

I do not think that adding Owens makes the Bills a Super Bowl contender, though.
I don't really know where to start on this one. On the one hand, I think Jerry needs to step out of the hiring and firing of the players. It's like there's something in his mental team management that if you don't perform in a specified time frame - you're out. On the other hand, good riddance to TO.

I, personally, have never forgiven or forgotten the stunt he pulled by running the ball back to the star - not once, but twice. As Emmett and Teague showed, that star is sacred and I don't think the fans here in Dallas have really forgotten it either.

We will forgive if you perform. But the fact is, he didn't. He was a whiny baby if he wasn't in every play and then when he was, he dropped the ball more than he made the play. It seemed as though he was coming around, but the groove was just somewhere out of reach.

I think he's a gifted athlete, but that was lost somewhere in his ego...and the antics...and the the trades. One rotten egg can spoil the whole bunch.
Jerry Jones is sort of a weird case, in that he serves not only as team owner, but also as general manager, so technically in that role, he DOES need to be involved in the hiring/firing process. Now, you could argue that he'd be better off hiring a full time GM and just be content hanging out in the owner's box. I'd agree with you. Of course, you'd be a miracle worker if you could make that happen.
How sad is it that my favorite NFL moment last year was Donovan's slow groove dance after beating TO & the Cowboy's ...

Sorry about the Bills ... used to love Thurman Thomas ... maybe it will be a short visit
Okay, I was in Philly when the whole to do about TO talking about his QB went down. Dude said if he had "insert name here because I forgot" he would catch more throws. There was a HUGE to-do about if everyone had forgotten that McNabb had indeed been throwing at TO's feet the entire SuperBowl and he was the only one to play...I acknowledge this and I HATE the Eageles (all Philly teams really because there fans are so nasty).

THEN...Donavan McNabb says the same things about his WRs after TO left...and there was no reaction.

The news media makes these things into a big deal. I remember TO crying over his team's loss. Some stuff is overblown.