Terrell Owens: The ‘Out of Bounds’ Media Coverage That Won’t Quit

By LaToya Hardaway
Updated: September 29, 2006

DALLASNever will there be a dull moment in Dallas, nor the Cowboys organization, as long as Terrell Owens holds residence. His latest incident, one which should be taken seriously, has overshadowed the Cowboys’ season in only four weeks, surpassed all T.O. coverage, and again the media is itching for a scratch.

“Breaking News: T.O. was taken to Baylor Hospital on Tuesday night, and treated for a drug overdose. According to police reports, it was a suicide attempt.”

Local and national reports/speculations are flying off the wires. Information was leaked Tuesday evening (via police department) and kudos to Rebecca Lopez from WFAA-Channel 8 for beating the beats, and breaking the story. But, it’s just a ‘story’ with some validity, and still big enough to interrupt soap operas in return for T.O. Turmoil and it was spinning, like rims, by the minute.

Thought we’d get clarity on the facts and Terrell Owens condition Wednesday morning from Dallas finest (the police department), but spokesman and Lieutenant Rick Watson gave us no confirmation on whether this half page report was fact or fiction- yea or nay- during a very brief press conference.

One has to look at a police report and believe it’s the truth. It’s in my hands:

9/26/06 at 7:51pm-Fire and rescue dispatched for an attempted suicide. Police were also called, arriving to find T.O. being stabilized in the ambulance. Kim (publicist) was interviewed at Baylor, stating T.O. was “depressed.” She noticed his prescription pain medication was empty and observed him putting 2 pills in his mouth. She proceeded to put her fingers in his mouth to retrieve pills. The prescription of 40 pills was filled on September 18th and only 5 were taken to date. Interviewed T.O., who was asked if he had taken the remainder of the prescription, and he stated “yes.” They asked him if he was attempted to harm himself, and he stated “yes.” He was treated by Baylor medical staff for a drug overdose.

Watson shied away from clarifying pressing questions that may have put him and the department in a tough position. “How that information got out, I don’t know,” he said. Was it a blast from the past (i.e. the erroneous and infamous Michael Irvin allegations)? The department was not on the same page (pun intended) with Owens and company.

This ‘story’ smells, something fierce. I’m not sold out on the attempted suicide.

Watson did, however, clarify Owens’ home address. Not cool.

Owens must have been listening to the pleas of some ESPN radio personalities, because within the hour of his discharge from the hospital, they announced, mind you to a national audience, that Owens decided to hold a press conference at his Dallas area loft.

Dallas had two circuses this summer that have left, but this one’s very different. It had to be at least 50 media camped outside T.O.’s door. Several cameramen, anchor men and women local and national, beat writers and reporters. It’s a long way from Bristol Connecticut to Dallas, but the ESPN reporters still beat me there.

Knowingly, he’s one of Owens’ biggest supporters, but I’m guessing Deion Sanders was pulling bodyguard duties, too. Everyone’s waiting on Owens to come out, but Sanders then informs us Owens decided to hold his press conference where it should have been in the first place, at Valley Ranch. Sanders is walking from door to door (I never figured that one out) trying to see if anyone was home. Three black beat writers/reporters are walking along side of him and they’re talking something.

One reporter notices and attempts to walk the same walk. Deion dismissed him. “Dog, I’m not saying nothin.” A channel-8 anchorwoman (Lopez’s colleague) asked another T.O. question as Sanders walked to door to door, again. She’s really friendly in her approach, but it doesn’t matter to him. “Ma’am, I’m not saying anything.”

There’s a message, but make your own assumption.

It’s apparent to me. For a reason, Sanders chooses to communicate only with black media persons.

Still, no one left, and it was “anything goes” to get a glimpse at Owens, even the black women who hit media with a verbal drive-by. “Leave that man alone, he got a life! Ya’ll ain’t got no respect for that man’s privacy. Ya’ll should be shame!”

Point well taken.

Oh, our fellow white citizens drove by, too, stopping their cars in the middle of the street to get a picture via cell phone of Owens’s home address which was in big numbers near the sidewalk. They should be shame! Two white guys, Owens faithful are 49ers/Cowboys fans (didn’t know that was possible), walked to media holding signs of support for Owens. All, but two media persons (myself and a Star-telegram reporter), ignored them.

“T.O. didn’t O-D!” They wanted us to know, “The (media) didn’t do this with Brett Favre when he was addicted to painkillers!”

Residential privacy for T.O. is now a thing of the past, and now he must add ‘MOVE’ to his to-do list.

Valley Ranch: An upper-class, quiet residential section of Irving, Texas and host to Cowboys practice facility, with big and expensive houses and apartments. Tranquility became a (media) invasion. Oh my God, this is ridiculous! The huge parking lot was full, forcing us to park and walk almost two blocks from the practice facility.

Jerry Jones: MIA (missing in action). In the wake of any event involving the Cowboys, the owner is always visible on Game days (wins and losses), Super Bowls, practice, owner meetings, player scandals, new and free agent signings. Where was he?

It must have been one of those Maalox-masher days for Jerry “desperation” Jones. He was nowhere in sight. The elite receiver Jones brought to the organization because he was “desperate to win” is going through, but Jones is not around smiling and reassuring the media as he did in March announcing the 3yr/25 million dollar man as the savior to the Cowboys season.

Again, make your own assumptions.

Parcells: “Fire away.” He wasn’t about to discuss it though, as with anything when it comes to Terrell Owens. He didn’t know anything until Wednesday morning, but he was still bombarded with questions. He let media know “the coaches are not involved with pain medication.” He got agitated and cut the press conference to less than 10 minutes.

Sounds like Parcells pleaded the fifth: “When I find out what the hell is going on, you will know. Until then, I’m not getting interrogated for no reason.”

The Cowboys PR department released a statement acknowledging they became aware of T.O.’s hospitalization Tuesday night.

Terrell Owens: He rounds the corner quickly and sat ready for questions thrown at him. We discovered he’d just finished working out and caught passes from Romo and Bledsoe. He looked rested- not like someone who had a long night from an overdose- certainly not like he’d had a long night, let along having his stomach pumped. He’s calm, and smiling.

“I’m not depressed by any means; I’m happy to be here.”

Owens said he took prescribed hydrocodone, a generic version of Vicodine, for the pain in his right hand in conjunction with natural supplements he’s taken before, too many and he couldn’t name them.

Sounds like an adverse reaction to the combination of pills, an accident.

T.O. considered it “ludicrous” that he would take his own life. He wants to play Sunday against the Titans. More than ever, be ready for the Philadelphia and the Eagles on October 8.

He doesn’t remember what questions the paramedics and police asked Tuesday night let alone, his own response; but Owens believes his publicist, Kim Etheredge, used her judgment and did what she felt was in his best interest when she called 911.

Speaking of publicist, let’s just say sometimes business can ruin a friendship. Owens may want to keep her as just a friend. Even under his groggiest state, his account of the incident seemed more convincing.

Etheredge looked understandably tired, dazed and confused. Bewildered.

I looked for validation that she simply overreacted and her dismissal of any suicide attempt, and hoped she’d shift the focus quickly to Terrell Owens’s recovery and preparation to return to the field. She categorically denied everything on the police report (except calling the police out of concern for Owens), implying it’s all a lie.

The DPD will probably rebut that statement.

She also told us she couldn’t remember everything because it was a long night.

She made a fool of herself. Now, the spotlight and the jokes are on her.

I wondered what Owens was thinking as she spoke. Whatever it was prompted him to step to the mike again, emphatically stating his appreciation to the police department and rescue team, along with his friends and the Cowboys organization.

He’s a smart man, and I sensed he needed to redeem himself, under his own recognizance.

So did the Dallas Police, specifically Chief David Kunkle. He believed reports were as accurate according to the information given by Etheredge, but further investigation through Thursday officially classified the Terrell Owens case as an “accidental overdose.”

I’m sure they’d also officially welcome an apology from camp T.O. Ahem. Ms. Etheredge.

By far, this is not the funniest thing to me since the Dave Chappell Show. I’m not sure what’s more disturbing- mockery of Kim Etheredge’s selective memory and her use of adjectives on national television, the media’s persistent ridicule of Owens, labeling his hospitalization and latest injury as another possible “distraction” and ploy to get attention, or ignorant comments from long time local sports reporters, who obviously lack sensitivity when it’s warranted.

Dale Hanson has credibility and the gall to stand by his statement: “I don’t understand how a man, like Owens with his money and fame and the life that he has, could be so depressed he would consider suicide.”

Not cool.

I gather Etheredge agrees in her most convincing statement of the afternoon: “Terrell has 25 million reasons why he should be alive.”

For any aspiring publicist: this is not a cute statement to make on behalf of an athlete trying to mend his broken image.

T.O., he was back at the Ranch on Thursday for practice, and following lunch, he took to reading the sports papers on the dark leather sofa like Tuesday evening never happened.

We should probably do the same.