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COMMENTARY

Owens can't like what he sees about his legacy

October 01, 2006|Shaun Powell | Newsday

Of course he didn't want to kill himself. Why would Terrell Owens snuff a privileged life when he has "25 million reasons" to stay alive, as his publicist snobbishly put it, and that many more end-zone dances in his future?

Those are 25,000,001 very good reasons for T.O. not to call the final timeout and continue being a football player in love with cash, catches and media crushes. Hours after dropping into a dazed stupor from taking a combination of supplements and pain relief pills, Owens was amused by police and media reports that had him suicidal. He said it was all an honest mistake. He said he wasn't "depressed by any means" and was "very happy to be here." He said the frantic emergency phone call from his publicist the night before, when Owens became unresponsive, was an innocent reaction from a concerned woman. Well.

Owens might be the most selfish athlete of our era, but not enough to commit the ultimate selfish act. I believe Owens, for one of the few times in his life, is being reasonable. I believe he's sincere. I believe he wants to go deeper in life than he does on his pass routes for the Cowboys.

But: I can see how someone like him would be suicidal.

If Owens is ever introspective about his life and legacy, he can't like what he sees and hears. He can't like how he made us feel.

He can't just lean on the "25 million reasons" for fulfillment, because money doesn't reflect a person's character and true worth, nor describe his value to society.

If Owens ever spends a minute outside that insular and fairytale world we put athetes and other celebrities in, he can't be satisfied with the image he made for himself, the cartoon character the rest of us see and mock and hold as an example of all that's terribly wrong with sports.

He can't be happy with the labels attached to him: Jerk. Clown. Terrible teammate. Drama diva. Unprofessional. Coach killer. All of which, by the way, were earned.

When he walks the street, he gets a reaction. A good many are respectful, I'm sure, because in a star-struck society, people will worship the famous, even for all the wrong reasons. But the clear-minded among us know all about the littered trail left behind by Owens in San Francisco and Baltimore (briefly) and then Philadelphia and you can bet Dallas pretty soon. In those places, well-meaning people tried to help Owens become a star receiver and in turn, he torched them.

Coaches. Quarterbacks. Owners. Fans. He turned his back on them all, showing none of the respect they showed him. He fought over money and catches and attention. And when his ego wasn't satisfied -- no chance of that, anyway -- he left town in a snit, and franchises that invested heavily in him had nothing to show for their trouble.

And that's why Owens knows what's being said about him in our world.

Rat.

Punk.

Egomaniac.

What public figure could be happy with that? We should introduce some perspective here and say Owens never has been charged with hitting a woman or dealing drugs or harming a child, and therefore he's not exactly a menace to society. But because of his childish conduct, every bit of it unnecessary and unprovoked, he gets hammered as if he committed a crime. That's unfair, and yet that's the life Owens chose to lead with his regular acts of insubordination and inflammatory attacks on teammates and the like.

In his quiet moments, when there's no TV camera around to give him more of what he seeks, you think Owens doesn't wish he'd done a few things differently? You think he wants his family and kids to bear the burden of his dumb mistakes? You think he wants to wince when he Googles himself? Certainly, a degree of regret or a sense of unhappiness must kick in, if he has any self-respect, when he realizes he could've done this a whole different way.

Owens is too healthy and wealthy and locked inside a fantasy world to be suicidal. But if he ever saw himself as we see him, he'd bear the trait shared by all suicide victims: sadness.

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