Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Who is the Real Terrell Owens?

Off the record, from what I've been able to gather so far today, Terrell Owens' press conference is only half of the story. For those of you just tuning in, the Cowboys' wide reciever was rushed to the hospital late Tuesday night. Early reports indiciated that he may have attempted suicide, although he later denied those rumors, stating that he suffered an adverse reaction to a mixture of pain medication and nutritional supplements, and that the police mistakenly categorized it as a suicide attempt.

The details that trickled across my desk late Wednesday may shed some light on the true nature of events. The information came from Owens' close friend and personal trainer, James "Buddy" Primm (via a third party, of course). Apparently Owens' young son (from a prior relationship) celebrated his seventh birthday this past Monday (I'm still trying to confirm this), and the two were unable to meet. The same day, Owens' current girlfriend, to whom he has been engaged for over a year, allegedly gave him an ultimatum, which my source relayed as "get married or else." According to Buddy, Owens explained that he was under too much pressure this year to take that step, and she dumped him. So Monday was not a good day for T.O.

Pressure is an interesting phenomenon. Some individuals thrive on it; others crumble under it. Pressure should be nothing new to T.O., he is in the limelight on a weekly basis and seems to embrace every minute of it. However, personal and professional pressure are two very different animals. In Owens' case, he has made life in Dallas more stressful than necessary. T.O. lives in a $400,000 loft about a block from Fair Park. While the surroundings are very posh, it's a long drive to Valley Ranch. He wakes up early to get to practice during rush-hour and spends a long day there, after which he participates in more specialized, intesive workouts with Buddy. Buddy insists that Owens' teammates have been telling him that he lives too far from work, that he should move out before the State Fair begins (Sept. 29), and that Owens has been contemplating moving into the W Hotel for a few weeks to escape the frenzy.

What is certain is that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Behind his showmanship and smiling persona, T.O. is a very emotionally dependent person. Buddy, the man who introduced Owens to the hyperbaric chamber, recently lived with T.O. until publicist Kim "25 million reasons" Etheredge took his place. (On a side note, after the press conference today, I have the feeling that Etheredge won her job after a drunken night of playing H-O-R-S-E with Owens: "Okay now T.O., if I hit this one, I get to be your publicist...") Buddy infers that Etheredge's presence is a result of the cold, corporate environment at Valley Ranch. Apparently Owens is not close with many of his teammates, and spends much of his time hanging around with second and third-string players. From a psychological angle, it almost seems like a self-esteem issue. Coach Bill Parcells is known to be unfeeling, distant and demanding -- it's hard to imagine that he provides the TLC or personal attention that Owens needs.

Unfortunately for Owens, his fastest and most vocal supporters in this case have been Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders. Maybe it's just me, but doesn't an emotionally unbalanced person need friends with a bit more moral fortitude? Regardless of the circumstances, it's hard to believe that T.O. would "mistakenly" mix hydrocodone with nutritional supplements. The man's body is maintained to perform like a machine -- even Buddy admitted that sending Owens to the Cowboy's training staff was like "taking a Lamborghini to the Sears auto center." Even with a broken hand (not finger), there's no way T.O. mistakes painkillers for supplements.

The underlying tragedy in this is that, after several "fresh starts," T.O. may have missed yet another opportunity to earn the public's trust. In today's era of commercialized mega-stars, the true nature of the person can become lost in the promotional chaos; while we recognize our favorite athletes by their faces, names or the products they endorse, we don't really know much about them. If Wednesday's events were, in fact, a suicide attempt, Owens had a fair chance to address the emotional issues that seem to plague him on and off the field. Unfortunately, T.O., along with his agent and publicist, turned the press conference into a fiasco of half-truths and selective amnesia, further isolating Owens from the fans upon whom he relies for emotional support. Like many star athletes under pressure, T.O. chose to salvage his celebrity persona and sacrifice his integrity. Instead of focusing on his humanity, the questions quickly turned to "Will he play on Sunday?" For professional athletes, who are often treated as commodities, the line between being a person and a product can become blurred. In T.O.'s case, he has obliterrated that line, and has nobody to blame but himself.

I doubt that any of this will ever be stated for the record. Just remember that you read it here first!


Magan said...

It is about time that someone addressed the issue of integrity and humanity. Unfortuantely, the world of business views everyone as green, as if we are supposed to be Martians with blunted affect, without any emotions. As child athletes, we are encouraged to use our anger and frustration to a force against our rival teams rather than learn to deal with the pressure and stresses of life. Then as an adult athlete, we seek refuge in pain killers as they are readily in our access due to the wear and tear involved in the nature of the business.

I appreciate your comments. Well said. I hope that it is well received by the creators of the next generation athletes.

Dan said...

Interesting analysis ... I'm curious to see what facts behind this come out in the next few days