Even Great Men Know How To Pick And Win Their Battles In A War Of Attrition

By Gregory Moore
Updated: August 16, 2005

Sheridan and OwensSAN ANTONIO –If it seems like the sports media is piling on Terrell Owens and his “entourage” of PR lackeys, Drew Rosenhaus and others, it is because this athlete’s camp makes it too darn easy not to.

Even this website, as much as many of the writers on it would love to not lambaste Owens, finds itself caught in the wake of T.O. bashing because instead of Owens giving all of us a reason to believe him and make a legitimate stance with him, he continually pulls public relations blunders that just boggle even the most adamant supporter of his cause. The latest PR stunt that boggles everyone is this “open” letter from his website, terrellowens.com.

“Terrell Owens would like to publicly thank his fans for their continued, and unwavering support. Despite all the negative publicity, the fans have remained objective, and optimistic. This positive reinforcement has inspired Terrell to work as hard as he can to improve on last years standout season”.

“He plans to catch more balls than he ever has, and believes his on-the-field heroics will far outweigh any off-field criticism thrown his way. Through his actions, Terrell has continued to defy the negative speculation that has surrounded him, and he has proven himself to be a professional”.

“Despite all the rumors and innuendo Terrell has shown up to work on time, and from the moment he arrived he has given his all, picking up right where he left off in the Super Bowl”.

“Unfortunately for Terrell, this gung-ho approach led to the aggravation of a nagging groin injury. Realizing that this could have been perceived as a negotiating ploy, Terrell has done everything possible to accelerate his rehab”.

“Regrettably, recent events have unfolded in a way that may paint a negative picture of Terrell. This situation has mushroomed far beyond what should be considered adequate coverage, and Terrell has become the media’s favorite whipping boy”.

“While this is discouraging, Terrell knows this is part of the business. To the fans he simply says that this was an isolated incident that was not premeditated. Terrell in no way wishes to be a disruption to the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl”.

“In fact. Terrell has gone out of his way to diffuse the tension by keeping to himself in all non-practice related affairs. During practice and work related situations he has been and will be attentive and responsive; Terrell only asks what every other worker in America asks for, respect and dignity”.

“Terrell will return to camp and continue to display the work ethic, and on-the-field dedication that has made him one of the world’s most elite athletes. For you the fan, and your continued support in the most difficult of times, Terrell plans to reward you with a season for the ages. Where small men succumb, great men overcome“!

Now you can pick any one thing out of that letter but what I am going to pick out is the last sentence of his letter, “where small men succumb, great men overcome”. There is no argument that Owens is a probably one of the best wide receivers in the NFL to date. Next to Randy Moss, Owens has no equal.

He is a special talent on the field. Yet that is where his greatness remains because off the field, Owens is as ordinary as you or I and sometimes he’s not even ordinary. Owens’ own public relations machine is trying to portray him as someone that he isn’t.

Terrell Owens will never be a great man because he doesn’t understand what it takes to reach that level. On the athletic side of things, Owens may have Hall of Fame numbers but like baseball’s Ty Cobb, Owens may never be revered as a great man of social character because of the actions that he shows to the rest of the world.

Owens will never be a man like Jerry Rice because he doesn’t have the humility that Rice showed during much of his career. Owens may never be as great as Steve Largant because Largant showed the capacity to lead a team when winning was at a premium.

Terrell Owens may not even be as great as Michael Irvin because in the end, even Irvin realized that greatness means owning up to your mistakes and rehabilitating yourself so that others can forget about your past. Owens can promise his fans the world but this is a time where actions mean a lot more than words; or so it seems.

GREAT MEN ACCEPT GREATER ROLES IN RESPONSIBILITY It’s ironic that Owens would allow someone to pen something like his letter without really understanding what he is saying. Rhetoric aside for the moment, if Owens truly wants to live up to what he is promising, that would mean that he would have to admit that he has been a total jerk about this situation.

For Owens to truly become a great man in this situation, he would have to own up to the responsibility that he has as a team leader and show his teammates that he is about winning a Super Bowl and not about making himself rich at the expense of others. As some folks would say, he has to be a man about this situation and become a problem solver; not a problem maker.

However, right now I seriously doubt that myself and countless others who are just NFL fans can trust him or his support staff. I don’t see Owens as a leader because leaders do not make public relations blunders and then expect others to just forgive him for his actions because he was trying to make his point.

As I have often stated in other articles, there is a reason why many athletes do not excel past being just grown men paid to play a kids game and they never reach the pinnacle of becoming the owner of a pro sports team. It takes more than just money; you have to have managerial skills and leadership qualities.

The reason why Ervin “Magic” Johnson, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky are owners in their respective professional sports leagues is because they were leaders both on and off the field and you rarely heard them act in the contentious manner like Owens is doing now.

Ownership of one’s actions is makes a person great. Does Owens actually believe that men like Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and many, many others didn’t make mistakes along the way? If he does then he is more foolish than I perceive him to be.

I’ll even go biblical for Owens to make my point. Bible men like Moses, Aaron, Lott, Jacob, Peter, Paul and Daniel all had flaws yet it was the fact that they recognized those flaws and overcame them that made them great. Was David a holy man in God’s eyes? No. In God’s eyes, David was the man he chose to lead his people.

He had character flaws but that didn’t stop him from fulfilling what God wanted him to do as King of the Jewish people at that time. The same can be said for the rest of the biblical men that I mentioned and there are so many more who fall under that sentencing of not being perfect. Yet they all did what had to be done because they knew that despite their imperfections, they could get the task accomplished.

And so I wonder if Owens can live up to that standard that I just set forth going doing the path that he so often takes in the media. He wants to say that he is led by God but my question is does he understand that if he truly believed in what he was saying that he must own up to his fallacies and correct them so that he can accept a greater role as a team leader? Right now I just don’t see him fulfilling such demands that are set forth.

GREAT MEN DO NOT BECOME DETREMENTS TO THEIR EMPLOYERS If Owens cannot live up to being a responsible individual, if he can’t live up to being a team leader, then how can he become this great individual that his letter speaks of? He can’t football fans; the task is too arduous for him to overcome. Great football players are not detriments to their teams; they are leaders above reproach.

You look at the Philadelphia Eagles and what you see is a tem led by Donavan McNabb. One only has to look at how McNabb responds to Owens’ public relations sparring tactics and understands why the days for No. 81 may soon be so limited that the only way Owens gets to a Super Bowl this year is by playing his X-Box with his agent.

Owens has become everything that Keyshawn Johnson was two years ago and then some. Even though Johnson is now quite satisfied being a Dallas Cowboy, that only came about after he had to have his ego stripped of its essence.

Guys who are problem children for their teams simply do not last very long at the top of player greatness. Johnson was once considered one of the top wide receivers in New York until he ran his mouth and then demanded a trade to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Randy Moss has had flashes of brilliance in Minnesota but you see that he is quietly learning his role in Oakland. The way Owens is going right now, do not be surprised if he ends up sitting at home like Johnson did in 2003 saying, “Where did I go wrong in this thing”?

The Eagles are not playing games anymore on the public relations front and it shouldn’t come to anyone surprise. I wrote about the dismissal scenario days ago on this website because I knew what to expect from Joe Banner and Eagle management.

If Owens had done his homework he would have realized that management is very hard nosed and in a town where unions are the lifeblood and season ticket holders understand what it means to honor a contract, maybe the tactics that Rosenhaus and/or Owens has employed were for the wrong city at definitely the wrong time.

So where does Owens go from here? How can he actually live up to what he has told his fans in his open letter of support? Sadly is crawling back to Andy Reid and Donavan McNabb for a second chance. Will he get the second chance that he needs to help this team succeed?

From this reporter’s standpoint I don’t see it happening. Oh sure, he’ll be back with the team and he’ll play through the season but will he have that great season that he talks about in his letter? Not if Reid and McNabb have anything to do with it.

Some may say that the stance I am throwing out there is childish but in this case I don’t think so. See great men know how to pick their battles. Great tacticians know when to retreat and when to attack from a different angle.

As a field general, Owens has made some serious blunders in his battle plan and now his only recourse will be to go back to the Eagle management, McNabb and his head coach and try to salvage something that is plausible in his eyes. This battle is all but over folks. The only thing missing is the Magna Carta festivities of when Owens will be released next year.

If and when that happens one thing can be certain, if Owens learns from this mistake, he will definitely understand why great athletes like Rice, Johnson, Gretzky, Rice and others are sure fire Hall of Famers and why he may be a second ballot or so.

These great men knew which battles to pick so that they could become winners; Owens just picks great battles to fight in and loses every single time. This was a battle of attrition and the Eagles have won this one hands down.