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Why does everyone love to hate Terrell Owens?

It is said that “numbers don’t lie” or “the numbers, they speak for themselves”. The Hall of Fame is coveted by the numbers. In a league where legacies are recognized by the numbers, they have to tell it all. For the greats, they have left the league with unforgettable performances. Unfortunately, for the ones outside of our era, those performances will only reminisce inside of the minds of who were able to witness them in person. Today, we hear stories about those greats before Sunday kickoffs by old fans that long for the return of the golden age.

For the rest, we have the numbers. Numbers that have been edged in stone and their history to live on forever. The greats know about numbers. In the NFL, these greats are enshrined in its Hall of Fame. On the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce the Class of 2018. Ray Lewis, Brian Dawkins and Tony Boselli are amongst the fifteen finalists that head line this year’s potential selections.

Among those few, to no surprise, some will not make it. While these finalists will finally make it one day, this year casts a shadow of some that have been outspoken about their lack of acceptance. One in particular is Terrell Owens.

Among the stars

AP images

First, if numbers tell it all, then for Owens it must be a lie. Terrell Owens is all about the numbers. After a prosperous sixteen-year career, the five time all pro receiver left behind a legacy that would intimidate the bronze mantel heads in Canton.

Surprisingly, this is his third go around to the Hall of Fame and as the experts predict, this will not be his last. For Owens, his legacy will not be measured by numbers but by merit. Oddly, for a league that recognizes players by numbers, why is it so detrimental to judge Terrell Owens by character? This is why or at least what they tell you.

“I love me some me!” A phrased coined by the six-time Pro Bowler described just the player he was. Owens was a child under the lights, but a man among boys on the gridiron. And teams felt it. While performances where the talk of nightly sport television highlights, Terrell Owens made a name for himself with trash talk, high stepping between downs and his notorious touchdown celebrations. It made teams blood boil the way he mocked each and everyone them. “The Eagle flap” in Philly, “the Ray Lewis dance” against Baltimore and the coveted “Owen’s Stance on the Dallas Star”.

Terrell Owens… the divider?

While some looked on with disgust, others praised Owens’ outgoing persona on the field. But Owens’ play wasn’t up for discussion.  A quote from Carolina Panther quarterback Cam Newton when asked about his own touchdown celebrations,” If they don’t want me to celebrate, keep me out of the end zone then.”

Teams were hopeless. They couldn’t stop Terrell Owens so they watched along the sidelines as he paraded up and down the field over and over and over again. Owens’ passion to be great wasn’t just a show on the field, it was felt everywhere, even in the locker rooms. In his prominent stops in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas, Terrell Owens had problems with players, coaches and even management.

Whether it was Owens’ criticism of coach Steve Mariucci, especially during an outing against Chicago when Owens criticized the coach after blowing a fifteen-point lead, or in Philly where Owens butted heads with starting quarterback Donovan McNabb or even rumors around the Dallas organization about concerns on Owens’ mental fitness after circulation of an alleged suicide attempt there was always a story.

In trying to mend the bad blood between each and every team, the organizations and teams took sides. From locker room banters that led to fights, Terrell Owens was accused of dividing the teams. Festering chemistry and ultimately playing a role in causing the team to lack the moral fiber to compete for a championship. This has played one of the prominent roles for keeping Terrell Owens out of the discussion of the greats.


Numbers don’t lie… the numbers, they speak for themselves

Like said before, the sport of football is recorded in numbers. In points, in yards and in minutes. The numbers are objective. They don’t have a perspective or equate to certain occasions. The numbers tell it how it is and for Owens, it speaks in his favor. For all who have doubted the character of Owens can’t deny his talent.

Terrell was known for his prowess and passion between fifty-three yards. In his prime, he resembled the play of NFL titans like Michael Irvin, Andre Reed, Lynn Swann and Jerry Rice. Owens’ games was recognized as a product of the NFL played in the 80’s and 90’s of grit and toughness.

(Joseph Kaczmarek, AP)

He had memorable performances like his twenty-catch game on Jerry Rice day and an amazing game against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl after fracturing his tibia. While some saw his antics as childish, one could recognize them as passion. Terrell Owens passionate play mirrored the likes of sport greats like ray Lewis, Joe Namath, Kevin Garnett and even Michael Jordan.

For a career total, Owens snagged 1,078 receptions for 15,934 with 153 touchdowns, which rank in the NFL books fifth, second and third respectively. When people take sides on character, you can’t argue with the stats. Where Terrell Owens ranks among the elite in his position is still up for discussion. Arguably, Terrell Owens is at most the second-best receiver to play in the NFL.

Road to Canton

The ongoing criticism of Terrell Owens has been broadcasted by people who share a bad taste in their mouths when discussing his career. Writers, who were shoveled down to the lowest on the totem pole, now have the chance to get back at Owens. It is written. We have seen it before.

Pro Hall of Famer Kenny Stabler was subjected to the same treatment. Ostracized because some of his off-field behaviors, the Hall of Fame committee put Stabler on the back burner. When discussing his place in Canton. he was brutalized. Though he was selected in 2016, Stabler died in 2015 and went to his grave without seeing if he made it or not. While people don’t believe this will happen to Owens, you can’t tell the future. The idea that Owens would receive validation for his career after looking back thirty years from now is downright torturous.

As said by Shannon Sharpe himself. “The Hall of Fame is about the numbers”. With those stats, Terrell Owens should not just be a Hall of Famer, but be selected on his first ballot.

The writers’ criteria of what a Hall of Famer should be doesn’t quite match up to what a Hall of Famer is. If this is the case, why don’t the Hall of Famers themselves get a vote? If you ask the vast majority of gold jackets, they will tell you that Terrell Owens deserves a place in Canton. Hall of Famers like Cris Carter, Mike Haynes and Shannon Sharpe have publicly defended Owens’ place in the Pro Hall of Fame.

The verdict

Unfortunately, it is not up to them. The Class of 2018 looks to pass on Owens. Players like Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Dawkins all look to receive first ballot recognitions. Taking nothing from those guys, they were and ARE special to the game of football. They are part of the history of the NFL. For that, you cannot write the history without putting Terrell Owens towards the top of many lists. If the committee is trying to make a case and using Terrell Owens as the poster child, the damage is already done. For many of us, we questioned what a first ballot Hall of Famer is if Terrell Owens isn’t one.

(Ted S. Warren/AP file)

Any player that molds his career after Owens’, would be talked about for centuries. If this is the case, should Owens’ be the sacrificial lamb? Maybe. Fortunately, many of us still remember the great moments of Terrell Owens’ career. The time when Owens’ entertained millions. His number don’t need interpretation. And looking how Terrell Owens “loves him some him”, he doesn’t need the validation of writers. As quoted “If you align expectations with reality, you will never be disappointed”.


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