Sympathy for the Devil

T.O. brings out Dallas' dark side

Not that we need much help, but Terrell Owens brings out the worst in all of us.

T.O. turns us into baffled skeptics grasping at guesses. Right, fans?

After an unprecedented Dallas Cowboys week featuring a clogged throat, sliced thumb and trampled face, Owens raised the most compelling questions. Considering he missed his 7-year-old son's birthday and broke up with his fiancée, should we feel sorry for him? Should we believe Owens, who said he mixed a couple painkillers with supplements? Or should we believe Dallas police, who initially reported as many as 35 pills and not a word about vitamins? Do we, deep down, think it was all a big, very successful cry for help? Or even a publicity stunt? One thing's for sure: Nothing like a little attempted suicide-turned-accidental overdose to squelch a quarterback controversy.

T.O. turns us into combative cops looking for a fight. Right, David Kunkle?

With his officers' accuracy questioned, the Dallas police chief all but admitted a mistake while welcoming further debate about the incident. It's rare for police to re-classify a case from "attempted suicide" to "accidental overdose," especially when simultaneously inviting Owens' camp to file a grievance with Internal Affairs on the validity of the facts.

T.O. turns us into babbling idiots. Right, Kim Etheredge?

Presented with a chance to display her skills as a professional speaker, Owens' publicist instead gave one of the most dramatic performances ever to soil Valley Ranch. Chomping gum and sporting a hairstyle straight from Salon de Katrina, Etheredge called Owens a "man of statue" and noted that "Terrell has 25 million reasons why he should be alive." Obviously, that makes some of us who stick around for a piddly $25,000 genuine heroes. Considering her dumbfounding explanation of how, or if, she attempted to remove pills from Owens' mouth, Etheredge should be muted, if not fired. "Um, no, you know, ah, again, Terrell was sitting at the table with me, and he was taking his supplements, and when I asked him a question is when I didn't really get the response I was looking for so I went over to him...if pills had fallen...I have to tell you guys, it's been a really long night. I can't remember everything."

Well said.

T.O. turns us into confused reporters who wind up chasing the tail between our legs. Right, Richie Whitt?

I began writing that Owens, a player I predicted would cause harm in Dallas, had shocked us all by attempting to off himself. I headed toward Baylor hospital, only to hear that Owens had been released and had re-routed a press conference from his Deep Ellum condo to Valley Ranch. "This," I muttered to myself, "is the saddest story since Dallas Mavericks 19-year-old rookie Leon Smith donned war paint and attempted suicide in '99." Like a bewildered defensive back spun in circles, I headed home to hear T.O. say convincingly, "There was no suicide attempt." My final analysis: Only Owens could be upgraded from "suicidal" to "probable" in a matter of hours.

T.O. turns us into racists. Right, radio talk-show callers?

Sadly, perspective on the incident fell along sharply defined lines. Those who don't believe Owens' story and treat his overdose with cynicism pronounce it "puh-LEESE." Those who believe Owens' story and treat his overdose with compassion pronounce it "PO-leese."

T.O. turns us into fearful prophets. Right, Jerry Jones?

Even the man who fired Tom Landry is bracing for Owens' return to Philly, better known as Satan's homecoming to hell. "It's always been a hostile environment up there, but it could really be hyped up with a lot of commotion going on Sunday," Jones said Tuesday on The Ticket. "But when we signed Terrell we knew there were going to be interesting times. We're ready for it."

T.O. turns us into liars. Right, Bill Parcells?

Relying on his chronic dishonesty and yearning for plausible deniability, the Testy Tuna addressed the media in the wake of Owens' hospitalization and claimed, "I didn't hear anything until mid-morning."

Consider that absurdity. Parcells wants us to believe his star player was rushed to the hospital and he didn't find out until 14 hours later? Either the old-school coach still gets his news delivered via Pony Express, or he's lying. The disingenuous genius continued his selective memory at his Monday press conference. Parcells talked at length about how, as former teammates, Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Ferguson and Titans center Kevin Mawae went at each other with particular fervor last Sunday.

Asked about his initial trips to previous stomping grounds in New York and New England, the coach admitted, "I would say I had a little extra...yeah, that's just human nature." Then, curiously, Parcells had no earthly idea what effect, if any, returning to Philly will have on Owens. "I don't know," Parcells shrugged. "You'd have to speak with him about that."

T.O. turns us into high-maintenance, low-producing receivers. Right, T.O.?

Lost amidst the autobiography, the hamstring, the cycling outfit and the pill-poppin', Owens is only the Cowboys' second-best receiver. While T.O. has dropped touchdowns in consecutive games, Terry Glenn quietly nicked his thumb with scissors but still managed to catch more passes for more yards and more scores. Despite a broken right hand stabilized by a plate and three screws, Owens shouldn't expect much sympathy from an Eagles team he helped lead to Super Bowl XXXIX before tearing it apart last season through public feuds with teammates and coaches. "I've been through this time and time again," Owens said after catching five passes for 88 yards in last week's 45-14 win in Tennessee. "Regardless of all the critics and everybody speculating, it doesn't bother me."

T.O. turns us into bloodthirsty, vengeful carnivores. Right, Eagles fans?

"This is the game the whole city has been waiting for," host Anthony Gargano said on Philadelphia's WIP-610 AM Tuesday morning. "The emotional pitch is going to be at a level this city's never seen." A sobering vision, considering Philly fans hurled batteries encased in ice balls at Troy Aikman and cheered to Oingo Boingo's "Dead Man's Party" as Michael Irvin was wheeled off the field with a career-ending neck injury. From a city that penned "Hey Jimmy, Yank My Johnson!" and "Phuck the Cowgirls," we can only imagine the creative bed sheets that will be on display in T.O.'s honor Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. "It's Dallas Week, starring T.O.," Gargano said. "It can't possibly get any bigger."

Getcha popcorn ready. And because Terrell Owens brings out the worst in us, keep some extra security handy.

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