His bush-league snub of Hall further clouds Owens’ legacy
Let’s pray for Terrell Owens. Pray for his inner peace. Pray for healing. Pray for sound mind and body. Pray for proud family members who supported him before he became the caricature wrapped in his “T.O.” persona.
It would be easy to hop on a crowded bandwagon and chastise Owens for snubbing the Pro Football Hall of Fame as another pathetic attempt to generate more “look at me” attention to feed that beast of an ego. (And maybe that’s all this is about.)
Perhaps Owens is even loving every bit of the criticism aimed in his direction since he announced Thursday that he’ll pretty much take a knee on the Hall’s traditional enshrinement christening. Hey, that’s his prerogative. But it’s a terrible mistake. It seems like a no-brainer conclusion that Owens, who seemed to crave the spotlight during his heyday, feels like he needs to make some sorry point — at the expense of fellow Hall of Famers and people such as George Stewart, his former position coach tapped to present him — by becoming the first (living) Canton-bound enshrinee to not bother to show up.
As a member of the Hall’s selection committee for 21 years, I’ve been in that room, engaged in debates about the merits of candidates. I figuratively stood on the table defending Owens each year — and not because of his numbers, which can be so skewed yet so many point to as the defining measure — but because he was simply one of the best of his era.
It’s no secret that Owens generated some of the most heated arguments I’ve witnessed during the selection process due to locker room chemistry issues that followed him like the plague. Such sentiments were expressed by non-voters, too, including a well-respected NFL coach who insisted to me this year that he would not have wanted Owens on his team because of the selfish antics that marred Owens’ accomplishments over the years.
The Hall’s bylaws stipulate that candidacy is based on what happens on the field, which is why Owens was voted in. But it’s tough to argue against his detractors now. Rather than rising above the criticism and accepting his honor with class and dignity, he’s going bush league, putting one more mark on a legacy that has already been tainted by too much foolishness.
“I feel sorry for Terrell Owens,” tweeted former coach Tony Dungy, inducted into the Hall in 2016.
“If he chooses not to attend the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies he will be missing one of the most moving and emotional experiences someone could have in football. Indescribable moments. It will be his loss, not the Hall’s.”
Before going any further with this, a quick shout-out to Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Brian Dawkins, Robert Brazile, Jerry Kramer and Bobby Beathard. Here’s to the notion that the absence of T.O. won’t detract one bit from the ultimate career-capping moment for the other members of the Class of 2018.
The show will go on. The Hall is bigger than any one person. And there are thousands of former players — such as Everson Walls, Karl Mecklenburg and Joe Jacoby, well-credentialed finalists who didn’t get in last year — who have their own place in football history and would be honored to give an induction speech.
Yet if Owens, elected in his third year of eligibility, is sending a payback message because of his delayed entry, he has that ass-backward. Instead, this comes off as so selfish.
Shannon Sharpe, the Hall of Fame tight end (who is quick to lobby that his big brother, Sterling, deserves a gold jacket), was so passionate Friday on his FS1 show while reacting to the Owens saga. Sharpe, like so many others, is at a loss to understand Owens’ decision.
Owens — he also skipped out of Minneapolis during Super Bowl weekend, saying he had to play in a basketball game in Los Angeles rather than take a bow with his Hall classmates — hasn’t revealed exactly how he’ll celebrate what he calls one of the greatest days of his life when he’s inducted.
But he won’t be in Canton, Ohio. Maybe Owens has issues deeper than many can relate to, or perhaps it’s just a function of his particular worldview.
Sometimes, we just don’t understand and can only turn to a higher power.
Terrell Owens played for the 49ers, Cowboys, Eagles, Bills and Bengals.