Chapter 15: "So then why did the media decide to target him?"
Contrary to revisionist history, Owens's media firestorm did not emanate from any of the things people talk about. It wasn't Garcia, it wasn't McNabb, it wasn't sit ups in his driveway, it wasn't anything that led people to go, "he's a team cancer." He was lambasted with the same amount of intensity before any of that.
But what for?
Everything else Owens has done/been accused of doing has been done before. But this hadn't. Nor had this:
Unconventional touchdown celebrations and Owens's unapologetic response to the criticism he received are what drew the intense media scrutiny.
The "Terrell Owens is the devil" campaign was firmly set in motion on September 24th, 2000, when Owens twice celebrated a touchdown by jogging to mid-field and standing on the Cowboys' logo. The second time he did it, Cowboys safety George Teague chased after him and knocked him down. The media fallout was enormous.
Prior to that, nobody had ever had a bad word to say about him in the press. He was known as a "top young receiver," and that was it. Steve Young, who was with him his first four years, has nothing but positive things to say about their time together from 1996-1999.
But after going to the midfield logo a couple times, he had suddenly crossed a line in a way nobody had ever seen before. Perhaps he could have been forgiven for such an "act against humanity," but he sealed his fate when he refused to play along with those who wanted him to give a tearful apology, instead acting defiant.
He refused to acknowledge it was wrong and emphasized that he was doing it to fulfill a promise he'd made to the team pastor that he would head to the center of stadium in order to look through the hole in the roof and "praise God" (the first time, anyway; the second trip to the star was in response to Emmitt Smith having done it).
Head coach Steve Mariucci sided with those who thought it was excessive and suspended him for a game. Owens, feeling betrayed by his head coach, was angered by this and let this be known to the general public. The publicized Owens vs. Steve Mariucci feud was born.
Since the media was already firmly behind the "what Owens did was very bad" stance, they naturally sided with Mariucci, and Owens's role as the biggest villain in sports was cemented. He was the talented, flashy, black athlete who tested the boundaries of showmanship and refused to cater to their demand that he apologize for it and return to the box.
Don't believe me? Here's a video illustrating this very phenomenon:
When he autographed a football with a Sharpie after scoring a deciding touchdown against the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in 2002, it only further underscored the fact that he was testing the limits when it came to touchdown celebrations.
This was deemed important in that time period (first half of the 2000's), as it put full focus on the game's evolution possibly going in a direction that football purists had long feared. Players such as Randy Moss, Keyshawn Johnson, Chad Johnson, and Jeremy Shockey drew excessive criticism during this time period as well, but Owens was the well-established Public Enemy #1.
Owens was now under the media microscope...especially since he was on a 49ers team that had bounced back from a downfall to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons, and he was the team's only true superstar. All the cameras watched his every move, all the reporters analyzed his every comment. From 2000-2002, print and television personalities emphasized what a "volatile personality" he was. Then, in 2003, when the team was struggling, they finally got some sideline banter. When Garcia played poorly and was benched for Tim Rattay, they inferred things from Owens's praise of Rattay's play. When Owens left, people began hypothesizing that he had actually been a detriment to the 49ers team (which is hilarious, considering he was the team's only star caliber player), and when Owens started to vocalize his opinions on the 49ers once he had left the team and felt he was free to do so, he drew more resentment and criticism.
The snowball was now out-of-control and he didn't know what to do to stop it. He didn't help matters by holding out after one year in Philadelphia and making his hurt feelings over McNabb public, but the incredible reaction that ensued from that could not have come to fruition had the microscope not already been on him. And it is my belief that the constant media attention wore on him and essentially put him on edge. It's not paranoia when everyone really is out to get you.
By the time he got to Dallas, there was nothing he could do to stop people from bashing him. A "quiet week" would go by (meaning Owens didn't so much as clip his toe nails, so they didn't have anything to write about) and members of the media would comment on how "he's going to blow up soon. It's coming. He did this, and that, and this back then. I don't believe he's changed, a leopard can't change its spots. He's still the same guy who did this, and that, and this. If this doesn't happen, that will be happening soon."
Most of the energy had been zapped out of him; one could see this just by observing him on the sidelines and during interviews. He looked pretty much resigned to everything. That still didn't stop Ed Werder from going to anonymous-land and creating controversy off the ghost of 2000-2005 Terrell Owens.
One of the greatest things I've witnessed watching a Niners game. That and the Catch II against the Packers.
by Chris @ 05 Jun 2010 09:04 pm
Boo hoo. No one will sign me cause of the media. Laughable. You really know how to make an ass of yourself.
by James @ 05 Jun 2010 11:38 pm
Boo hoo, you have no job. Too bad you can't read, or you would've been able to pass grade school.
by Chris @ 06 Jun 2010 01:40 am
I'm so stupid you got me. T.O.'s a queer and so are you for defending him. It's got nothing to do with school, my girlfriend, or living in my parents basement you fool. But you have fun trying to get in T.O.'s jock. He's youre hero. Hopefully you don't have kids and encourage them to act like this asshole.
by James @ 06 Jun 2010 04:27 am
Lol, I'm a queer? I'm not defending T.O. If you could actually read, you'd see I've been defending Jordan Taber because you're insulting him. Go try again you illiterate fool. Except, maybe you could actually read. Oh, and Chris, you're the asshole, for insulting people for no reason.