Analysis  

 

Terrell Owens loves fame, but he's bored with football

Jerome Miron/US Presswire
Terrell Owens hauled in 35 passes for 420 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games for the IFL's Allen Wranglers.

So, what went wrong with T.O. this time?

You think you know the answer. Everyone does. And you're wrong. The reason Terrell Owens is where he is now -- unemployed after being released by the Indoor Football League's Allen Wranglers on Tuesday -- is not what you think it is.

It's not because he's selfish. It's not because he burns bridges. It's not because he alienated every QB he ever played with. It's not because of his elaborate celebrations, which quickly wore thin.

Those are the results of what happens when you're in the situation he's in -- when you don't love what you do.

Let that sink in for a second, and you'll realize you've been there, too. I was. I worked in a supermarket throughout high school and college. I didn't care about working there. I wanted to make new friends, play softball and hang out with girls. I liked everything surrounding my job. The job itself? I didn't respect it.

It's probably why I would do things like have nightly kumquat-throwing contests with one of my co-workers when the store was empty. (A five-aisle toss was my record.) It's why I would go on the P.A. system and breathe like Darth Vader.

T.O. loves everything that goes along with being a football star, but how much does he truly love football?

I remember Drew Henson, the former Michigan quarterback who initially turned his back on a pro career in the NFL to play baseball with the New York Yankees. He toiled in the minor leagues for a few years, then went back to football. But it was too late. He openly wondered if he didn't love being a Yankee more than being a baseball player. And I have to admit, before I came to the NFL Media Group, I had gotten to the point where I enjoyed the status of working for ESPN more than I actually liked working there.

If T.O. really cared about football and everything that goes with it, he would not have:

• Made insinuations about Jeff Garcia's sexual orientation.
• Said he wasn't the one who got tired in Super Bowl XXXIX -- Donovan McNabb was.
• Tried to play basketball in the NBA summer league while with the Philadelphia Eagles.
• Hurled insults at the Eagles, which ultimately resulted in his deactivation in 2005.
• Accused Tony Romo and Jason Witten of conspiring against him while playing for the Dallas Cowboys.
• Openly disagreed with the play-calling while with the Buffalo Bills.
• Put a clause in his IFL contract that he didn't have to participate in every road game, though he was purportedly trying to show the NFL he can still play.

Do you do all of that if you truly love your job?

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Terrell Owens is one of the greatest wide receivers we've ever seen. He kept himself in great shape to achieve glory on the football field. But what he loved most were the moments that allowed him to do something unexpected, almost as if the game was so easy for him that he became bored. Popcorn and Sharpies and striking poses on the Cowboys' star seemed like a way to to keep himself interested.

You can't say T.O. has always been like this. His first whiff of controversy (his comments about Garcia) came after his eighth -- EIGHTH -- season in the league. He played on special teams for the first couple of years. He caught the famous "Owens, Owens, Owens" pass to win a wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers, and cried while still on the field. He didn't make waves; he racked up catches and scored touchdowns.

The Terrell Owens story is not a cautionary tale. He is also not unique in acting out. Go on YouTube, type in "workplace pranks," and watch the thousands of videos posted by bored office workers in an attempt to liven up their TPS-report-filled days. That's who T.O. is -- someone whose God-given ability wasn't enough for him.

In that sense, I feel sorry for him. His situation doesn't excuse the firestorms he's caused, but it makes me understand him a little bit better.

Jason Smith hosts "NFL Fantasy Live" on the NFL Network and writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca and listen to his "Cover Two" podcast with Steve Wyche every week on NFL.com. He only asks that you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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