Saturday, July 25, 2009

T.O. Is Way Too Big For Buffalo

I was watching the second episode of VH1's T.O. show, "The T.O. Show," in which Terrell Owens was shown arriving in his new city of employment for the first time, and though much has been made of it already, the reaction that he has received from the Buffalo faithful can't be stated enough. He's a God, a hero, Pacquiao in the Philippines, a celebrity to easily starstruck inhabitants that feel honored and privileged and almost blessed to get to call him their own. Americans usually aren't so affected by big shots, because we are so used to them, and I think that just goes to show how little the small market of Buffalo has going for it. All the fun stuff goes on in New York, where the Giants and Jets roam, garnering all of the attention and casting the Bills into a shadow that they haven't been able to shake in sixteen years. In 1993 the Bills made the last of their four consecutive trips to the Super Bowl, so obviously they have had some great teams, and once upon a time they employed the services of Orenthal James Simpson, before he was the biggest pariah in modern American pop culture. But it's been pretty boring there for a while now: There's nothing to do, the beloved football team hasn't done much to bring excitement, and their biggest star has been Drew Bledsoe. Drew Bledsoe!!! T.O. owns Drew Bledsoe!!! Drew is one of his most notable victims!!! Everybody knows that!!!

And it is that last part, the fact that everywhere he goes Terrell Owens leaves a trail of destruction, wreckage all over the place in his wake, that makes the Buffalo experiment so special. Not only do we know it's coming, the pain T.O. brings to the teams he's on, but this is his greatest platform yet. Let me reiterate: Terrell Owens in Buffalo? Are you kidding me? There hasn't been that much of a mismatch since Super Bowl XX. T.O. is way too big for Buffalo. I don't know how good this team will be, but if Bills fans will be satisfied with just a show, they're going to get it.

There isn't anyone around to even remotely challenge his star power or the force of his personality. If T.O. dominated San Francisco, with Mooch and Garcia, and Philly, with Reid and McNabb, and America's team, with a celebrity like Romo, what is he capable of on the Bills, the NFL's everyman team? Dick Jauron, Trent Edwards, Lee Evans - Marshawn Lynch has had his run-ins with the law and is the closest thing they have to a star or a character - his flowing dreads, iced-out grill, and reckless running style creates a persona that I think the kids would describe as "hyphy" - but he pales in comparison to the larger-than-life quality Owens possesses.

The conflict, of course, will come between Owens and the men he seems to be preternaturally opposed to - coaches and quarterbacks (and tight ends who are best friends with the quarterback). He's going to have a field day with Jauron and Edwards, two of the most mellow and humble guys you'll meet. Can you imagine the mental anguish he is going to inflict on those two gentlemen?

I really don't mean to bash T.O. He has been a great player for a long time, he's easily one of the five best receivers that has ever played the game, and if he doesn't make the Hall-of-Fame on the first ballot (which wouldn't surprise me at all, considering his checkered past and the God-like tendencies of the Canton voters), I will absolutely scream and shout about the injustices of it all. But this is the reality of the Buffalo situation, and I'm only speaking about an inevitability.

Or am I?

T.O. signed a one-year deal with the Bills, and it's safe to say that this will be his last shot. Owens will be 36 in December, and while he was still a very productive player last year (69 catches for 1052 yards and 10 touchdowns, even with Tony Romo missing three games with a broken digit and being substituted for by a decrepit Brad Johnson), the effects of the aging process were nonetheless evident, as he was able to manage only two games of 100-plus yards and showed an inability to create the same separation against defensive backs that he did in his prime. There was a time when he was so good, you had to take the good with the bad, but that time is fading rapidly.

There is nothing wrong with Owens descending, obviously, that is what is supposed to happen to a player of his seniority. As Mark Jackson likes to say, Father Time is undefeated (and as I like to say, Father Time is undefeated against those who don't use HGH). But what really hurts Owens is the particular business he's a part of, the NFL the most cutthroat sports league in existence, no feeling for the aging player or any player, and in this case we have an aging player who's antics have been great enough and damaging enough that they have managed to overshadow one of the best careers any skill position player has ever had. In other words, this is his last strike.

But does T.O. realize this? Maybe he does. Owens is crazy, but most crazy people are not stupid. In fact, many of them are quite intelligent. And if T.O. is even a little smart, then he'll be on his best behavior in Buffalo this season, if only because he has no choice but to be.

In that sense, the thought of Owens not causing mayhem is more intriguing than the likelihood that he does. Because what is more captivating to behold: that which you have witnessed so many times you have come to expect it, or that which you have never seen before?

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