Your name is Terrell Owens

Charles Blouin-Gascon
August 28, 2012

You’re Terrell Owens and you’re a football player. Actually, you’re a football player without a job, because the Seattle Seahawks released you. It’s a weird feeling and though it’s happened to you before, it had never happened to you at 38 years old.

For a while, you were happy again. You had just signed a new contract with those Seahawks, which ensured you of coming back to the NFL after one season away. You were happy, but then the Seahawks decided to release you and so, now you’re not. You’re sad, probably hurt too, but you won’t delve into that quite yet.

You’re Terrell Owens and you were born in Alexander City in Alabama. At some point in your life, many will complain that you have a difficult time trusting others, but before that you were just a child. You were just a child and yet, you were asked to be so much more. You were asked to be so much more because you were raised with your grandmother, who bordered on being an alcoholic, and because you never knew your father – well, that’s not entirely true. Once you became a young teenager, you did find out who your father was. You had become enamored with a young girl who lived on your street but you two were never given a chance. It turned out that she was your half-sister because your father was also her father, and that all along your father had been living with a different family than your own – hers – and on the same street that you lived on. How’s that for trust, right?

Where did you go from there? Well at first, it was tough. Always, and still today, you have craved attention and validation in whatever you have done, but it’s always been tough. Thankfully, you found football and, in high school, your grandmother finally let you play. Quickly, you understood that here was a sport where you’d be adulated for all that you did so long as you were good and performed well. You made sure that you did just that until so many people loved you that you got a football scholarship at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. It was a small school, at least in terms of football, but it was good enough. 

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You’re Terrell Owens. At Chattanooga, you were still good at football – you made sure of it – and then you were drafted by the San Francisco 49ers to play football professionally. You got to play with one of your idols in receiver Jerry Rice, and it didn’t take long for you to figure out that you could be really good at this level. It happened in the 1998 playoffs against the Green Bay Packers when you caught the winning touchdown pass. Three years later, in a 2000 regular season game against the Chicago Bears, you caught a then-NFL record 20 passes. That’s how you learned that usually on the football field, you need to catch many passes for your team to perform well and win games – and it turns out that in most cases, you’ve been right.

You’re Terrell Owens and over a 15-year NFL career, you’ve been as polarizing as any other player before, or since, you. On the one hand, there are your statistics: 1,078 catches for 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns. These are good for, respectively, sixth, second and second in NFL history. Not many, if any, can say that they have equaled your totals, and these statistics make you at the very least one of the better receivers of your era. But on the other hand, you’ve been portrayed as a locker room cancer and a player who is always looking for validation and the reassurance that he belongs – sounds familiar, right?

While you readily admit that you haven’t been perfect, you can’t help but notice that some of what you have done pales in comparison to what others allegedly have. You can’t help but notice either that some of the good you do seems to get swept under the rug. Nobody remembers that you’re among the hardest workers in the NFL and that you’ll willingly compete in a Super Bowl on only one healthy ankle if that’s what it takes for your team to win – and for the record, that’s what it took, and it came pretty close to working in 2004. You’re Terrell Owens and you never get the benefit of the doubt or a presumption of innocence. Any mistake that you make is treated as symptomatic of a greater evil in your personality. People always want to believe the worst about you.

You’re Terrell Owens and right now, you’re sad. You’re hurt. You’re sad and hurt because you’re a football player without a job. You last played in the NFL in 2010 and posted good numbers (72 catches, 983 yards and nine touchdowns) for the perennially dysfunctional Cincinnati Bengals. Then, you tore the ACL in your knee near the end of that season and you haven’t played since. You think you’re still talented enough to play and to prove this you even joined the Allen Wranglers of the Arena Football League. But that didn’t go well and you were quickly released with a $50 severance pay. You have done it all for the love of football but you’re sad because it seems like the game has no more love for you.

You’re Terrell Owens and for a while, your problem was that you couldn’t ever change. Despite whatever stunts you might have pulled – and let’s face it, they weren’t that bad to begin with – you always managed to find a job in the NFL. Teams couldn’t help themselves and never held you accountable because there was always someone willing to give you a new contract. NFL teams always rationalize things that help them win football games and for a while, they realized that you helped them win football games. But apparently, they don’t believe this anymore. And now that you say that you have changed, teams don’t believe you.

You’ve just been released by the Seattle Seahawks.

Your name is Terrell Owens, but you’re not sure what that means anymore.

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The Author:

Charles Blouin-Gascon