By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
After sitting on a runway for an hour in Atlanta and finally arriving at DFW Airport three hours late on a July 5 flight, Terrell Owens pulled down his plaid Gilligan hat and pulled out his cell phone when a beleaguered co-passenger timidly approached near the luggage carousel.
"Hate to bother you...I know we're all frustrated," the man said to T.O. "But could I get an autograph?"
As he scribbled his signature, Owens flashed a smile and casually remarked, "Man, everything happens for a reason."
Said the stunned man, "Wow."
Which pretty much sums up Owens' meteoric rise in the metroplex. Last summer Public Enemy No. 1 and 1A, the talented, tempestuous Dallas Cowboys receiver now finds himself atop a more desirable list--the Dallas Observer's first annual 50 Most Powerful People in Sports.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban may have the influence to make his fans believe in winning and whining, but Owens provokes the most powerful of sentiments--forgiveness. To his acts, everyone reacts. And now, as his first Cowboys training camp approaches, the asshole who stood on Texas Stadium's star and showed up for a Mavs game in a Heat jersey--a move so powerful it prompted the team to give him a personalized Dallas jersey 48 hours later--is already softening jeers into cheers.
Using subjective criteria about as scientific as dryer lint, Owens tops the list of movers, shakers and decision-makers because he's cool, he's hot and, most of all, he's powerful.
50. Tom Landry. With his hat in the Ring of Honor, his statue outside Texas Stadium and his legacy hovering over America's Team, he'll be here forever.
49. John Painter. Without his tireless promotional work, the Mesquite Rodeo would be just a dusty memory.
46. Jamey Newberg. Dallas attorney's Newberg Reportis a must-read for baseball junkies and general managers.
44. Drew Shubeck. Lone Star Park vice president charged with competing against neighboring states' casinos.
42. Chuck Dannis, president of the Dallas White Rock Marathon, runs the area's biggest participatory sports event.
41. Robert Decherd. Chairman of Belo, which owns WFAA-Channel 8 and Dallas' only daily.
40. Gordon Jago. Director of the Dallas Cup is as committed to soccer as you are to oxygen.
39. Nolan Ryan. 'Member that time he punched ol' whatshisname in a headlock? Yeah, that was awesome.
38. Stephen Jones. "Heir to the Cowboys throne" looks great on a résumé.
37. Larry Lundy. Nobody throws a black-tie party like the president of the Dallas All-Sports Association.
36. Dave Tippett. Stars coach was famous before hockey died.
35. Rich Dalrymple. Cowboys public relations director has unenviable task of maintaining relationship between Bill Parcells and his, ahem, adoring media.
33. Michael Young. Sadly, he needs to punch a photographer to get the Q rating to match his lofty batting average.
32. Gil Brandt. His present position as NFL consultant keeps his finger on the pulse of football, and his past as Cowboys' GM keeps him a candidate for the Hall of Fame.
31. Brad Sham. Voice of the Cowboys has endured with eloquence since the 1970s.
29. Dale Hansen/Norm Hitzges/Randy Galloway. The Mount Gushmore of metroplex sports media.
28. Roger Staubach. 'Twas a better world when Captain America lived in the Top 10.
27. Michael Irvin. Playmaker is still a newsmaker on ESPN and Dallas North Tollway.
25. Jordan Woy. Dallas-based agent represents more than 50 NFL players.
24. Dirk Nowitzki. Post-season criticism of Cuban may be his unleashing of untapped power.
22. Gerald Ford/Vic Salvino/David Miller. Without SMU's biggest boosters, Doherty would still be in Florida.
21. Mike Rhyner. Former morning DJ founded The Ticket radio station that evolved into the Cowboys' flagship and co-hosts the area's highest-rated afternoon drive-time talk show.
20. Avery Johnson. Slid dramatically after he and his team unraveled in NBA Finals.
18. Don Hooton. Major League Baseball's grassroots war on steroids started with a $1 million donation to his Taylor Hooton Foundation.
16. Jon Daniels. Texas Rangers' GM is way younger than you. And way smarter.
15. Jay Lombardo. Seemingly every player in the NBA and at the NFL draft bought his snazzy suit at Lombardo's.
14. Mike Modano. He goes to Primo's, you (dragged behind your girlfriend) go to Primo's.
10. Troy Aikman. Hall of Famer still carries considerable weight via TV analysis and NASCAR ownership with Staubach.
9. Laura Miller. Thanks to the lame-duck mayor, the Cowboys are leaving and Texas-OU is staying.
7. Bill Parcells. His majesty's daily circle jerks with media are broadcast live.
6. Tom Hicks. Owns two teams. But zero clues.
5. Jon Heidtke. Wouldn't recognize him on the street, but the FOX Sports Net Southwest senior vice president makes the decisions about Mavs, Rangers and Stars you recognize nightly on TV.
3. Jerry Jones. His every move remains monumental, but Cuban's rants have rendered his sideline sojourns passé.
2. Mark Cuban. Has the mind, money and moxie to create something priceless--hope.
1. Terrell Owens. Generating a deafening buzz before his first catch in Cowboys pads.