Rats! Terrell Owens in trouble again
August 12, 2004
Even if the San Francisco 49ers post a 0-16 record in 2004, representatives and fans of the organization ought to be satisfied with the departure of wide receiver Terrell Owens. With Owens gone, the Niners can at least focus on winning and not on trying to defend his antics.
During the Joe Montana/Ronnie Lott Super Bowl years of the 1980s and that lone 1994 Super Bowl season that got the monkey off Steve Young’s back (before Owens joined the team in 1996), there was always an aura of class and respect that surrounded the franchise.
During his eight-year tenure with the 49ers, Owens did nothing to live up to the bill because his loose upper lip would always start flapping. Mixed with the frequent, sensational touchdown celebrations that became Owens’ trademark, he was always a bit out of place in a 49ers uniform. Hence, he is gone to Philadelphia.
The latest dumb remark has the new Eagles star receiver drawing a connection between the most maligned of the rodent species, the rat, and the gay population with former 49ers teammate Jeff Garcia stuck somewhere in the middle. In a Playboy magazine interview that hits newsstands today, asked if Garcia was gay, Owens said, “Like my boy tells me: If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is a rat.” (By the way, who is Owens’ boy?)
Owens defended his statement by pointing out the easygoing nature of the conversation with the interviewer. I guess when you sit down and relax for a while, the gay accusations start flying. Meanwhile, as he concentrates on resurrecting his career with the Cleveland Browns, Garcia said after practice on Wednesday that the comments were ridiculous and untrue and answering questions about them were a waste of his time in an ESPN.com article.
Although Owens admitted that Garcia had a girlfriend most of the time during his five-year tenure with the 49ers, he seems to be implying that Garcia looks gay, and he carried some aura of homosexuality. Of course he later denied specifically calling Garcia gay. Owens went on to say in the Playboy article that if he was ever a teammate of an outspoken gay NFL player, he would be OK with it if the said gay player “helped win ball games,” and if he kept his distance from Owens.
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Obviously, officials representing gay organizations were immediately outspoken against Owens’ words. In a recent New York Times article, Rita Addessa, executive director of the Pennsylvania Lesbian and Gay Task Force, called it “appalling” and said it does “real harm, creating a cultural environment which justifies violence against gay and lesbian people.” Addessa also wants Owens and the Eagles to make a public apology. Andy Reid, the Eagles head coach, wanted to avoid the issue altogether, saying, “I don’t read Playboy.”
Watch out Reid, with a statement like that you could be Owens’ next target.
This is what you get with Owens: Distractions. Off-the-field distractions that are unneeded, especially to a team that has lost three straight NFC Championship games and whose measurement of success in 2004 is reaching the Super Bowl. That’s it. Anything else is a failure. And Owens, along with defensive superstar Jevon Kearse, is supposed to be the answer. Knowing this, a mature Owens would have said, “You know, even if Jeff is gay, I don’t mind. I don’t care. I wish him the best with the Browns. Without him, I might not have 50 touchdowns credited to my name. He gave me a lot of chances to celebrate in the end zone.”
Or he could have said nothing and argued the relevance of the question at hand.
The mature one in the situation turned out to be Garcia, who realizes his leadership role as the oldest player (34) on the Browns. He didn’t even specifically name Owens or criticize him when he answered questions after Wednesday’s practice.
But because I am a sportswriter, and I can do what Garcia can’t, I will be the immature one and make a rebuttal in Garcia’s defense. Remember, this is all in fun, but Owens is a big bully and I want to put him in his place. Try to remember that Garcia is 6-foot-1, 195 pounds and Owens is 6-foot-3, 226 pounds. In America, we always cheer for the underdog, so here goes (just don’t imagine Garcia’s comeback in his signature high-pitched voice):
Funny that Owens would choose to poke fun at Garcia by calling him gay. After all, it was Owens who said in a recent SportsCenter interview that he will fight coach Reid’s rule against wearing tights on the practice field. To me, that sounds like Owens enjoys showing off his body. It was also Owens that grabbed the pom-poms from an unsuspecting cheerleader during a touchdown celebration. Owens wears two earrings in his ear. Garcia doesn’t. Owens has a reputation of being outspoken and flashy. Garcia doesn’t. Eagles prey on rats (I will not mention the Browns in this circumstance).
In all seriousness, this is undoubtedly a new chapter in the continuing saga of a sour relationship between two stars that was never resolved. It’s also an indicator of how stupid the relationship between sports and media has become. Owens saw his chance to rip a guy he never had any respect for, even though Garcia has helped Owens reach four straight Pro Bowls before the two parted ways, and Playboy saw its opportunity to start some drama.
Of all the times Owens pointed a selfish finger at Garcia for having a weak arm, Garcia never countered by pointing out the many times that Owens let a perfect pass bounce off his chest, or go through his hands, and go in the books as an incompletion. Owens often complained that Garcia did not throw it to him enough. Hmm.
Since Garcia cannot come out and say anything harsh, his retribution will have to come through his on-the-field performance instead. The real battle between Owens and Garcia comes in the quest for their first Super Bowl rings, something they couldn’t accomplish as teammates in San Fran from 1999-2003. They have seven Pro Bowl appearances between them, and they’ve both won at least one playoff game. They are both at the point in their careers where further success, perhaps Hall of Fame status, is determined by championships.
In 49er land, they should be OK with the fact that Owens and his big mouth have gone to a better fit: the city of Philadelphia. It was also time for Garcia to go, as last year he had his worst season since 1999. A crumbled franchise compared to 10 seasons ago, the 49ers embark on a new era and will attempt to shed their West Coast offense philosophy for the first time in nearly 25 years. Ironically, there’s another rat that will determine how successful that transformation is ” “The Rat,” actually. He is the new quarterback Tim Rattay, who follows maybe the three greatest quarterbacks to play in succession for any franchise. I’m not making this up.
[Matt Brown is sports editor for the Sierra Sun.]