So, the NFL just passed a new rule banning “prolonged and excessive celebrations” while a player is on the field or in the end zone. If you ask me, it would have been simpler-and more honest – to call it the “Terrell Owens” rule.
You do know who Terrell Owens is, right? The World’s Greatest Wide Receiver? If you’re not sure, ask him. He’ll be happy to grab a loudspeaker, stand in front of you and tell you how incredible he is over and over again until your ears drop off and whisper, “No mas, no mas” before they crumble into powder.
Yeah, I know this new rules also targets loudmouth narcissists like Chad Johnson and Steve Smith. However, when you compare their antics to the bizarro stunts Owens has pulled, those guys will just have to settle for a “Honorary Mention”. Hey, T.O. earned his plaque in the Egomaniacs Hall of Fame as a 49er when he celebrated a touchdown at Texas Stadium by dancing on the team’s star logo at midfield. (But I’m sure Owens conveniently forgot how Dallas Cowboy George Teague smashed into him like a runaway truck when he tried to do it a second time. Ouch.)
Anyway, some fans, players and a few ESPN talking heads aren’t happy about this. It’s another example of the No Fun League turning the flamboyant rebels who make the game exciting to watch into bloodless automatons, they say. What’s the big deal?
In some people’s minds, athletes like Terrell Owens are exuberant, free-thinking, don’t-give-a-damn iconoclasts who are passionately exercising their First Amendment rights. Personally, I think they’re big, loud, empty barrels keeping busy by giving the rest of us splitting headaches. George Clinton once said, “The bigger the headache, the bigger the pill.” Now, thanks to T.O. and the other hambone actors in the NFL, I want a Tylenol I need a damned forklift to pick up.
Why? Well, one reason is whenever I see these wanna-be comics do their routines (using a Sharpie to autograph the pigskin, talking on a cellphone after a touchdown or grabbing pom-poms and dancing with the cheerleaders), I always come to the same conclusion: They’re not funny. Nobody’s gonna be the next Chris Rock. None of them are quitting their day jobs to host a comedy special on HBO.
If any of these football players were contestants on America Idol, Simon would joyfully bludgeon them into pulp with a wisecrack gift-wrapped in barbed wire.
Other than sadists who want to watch their drunk friends loudly mutilate Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.” nobody goes to a karaoke bar to listen to music. So, applying the same logic, when I’m watching football, I don’t need to see the amateur theatrics that unnecessarily slow down the game and piss people off. I just want to watch football, all right?
But the other reason why the media’s canonization of T.O. bothers me so much is seeing the latest example of a contemporary African-American athlete who’s controversial for the wrong reasons. And I believe there’s a racist element of White America that likes it that way.
I’m old enough to remember when it was different.
Back in those angry days when African-Americans were “Negroes” and white bigots didn’t need to hide in the closet, a brave loudmouth like, for example, Muhammad Ali would use his fame to illuminate the dark corners in America where ugly things were happening to black people. Back then, when Ali was a young heavyweight boxer named Cassius Clay who said, “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger”, explaining why he refused induction into the Army during the Vietnam War. It was a controversial statement that got folks mad. And the penalty Muhammad Ali paid for those strong words and his subsequent actions was big. Stripped of his championship title, Ali didn’t fight for 2 Ã?Â½ years. No, he sure didn’t sell a lot of sneakers.
And I don’t think it’s getting any better. “Today you have athletes who are told not to be political,” said Charles Farrell, president of Sports Perspectives International, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. “I think one of the things we lose sight of is that sports is a $200 billion industry. And when you consider endorsements, there’s a real incentive to keep your mouth shut, play your game and keep making money.”
Although Terrell Owens hasn’t kept his mouth shut, he also doesn’t say anything that would cause those rich white men to stop signing his paychecks. In T.O.’s dictionary, what the word “controversy” means is being greedy, obnoxious and arrogant.
Yeah, Owens pretends to be a snarling, bloodthirsty Rottweiler, but when his corporate masters are tired of the incessant barking and whack him on the nose, he gets quiet and does his business on the newspapers like he’s supposed to. Do you think Rush Limbaugh smiled when he saw how T.O. betrayed Donovan McNabb by saying “I wasn’t the guy who got tired in the Super Bowl” and unwittingly reinforced every negative stereotype about African-American quarterbacks? Way to go, Owens! Why should a racist bust his ass when you’ll do the work for him instead, right? McNabb wasn’t wrong when he called it a “black on black” crime.
No, T.O. ain’t no rebel. Not to me, anyway.