Monday, November 28, 2005

How Did It All Go So Wrong?

Will the Eagles' loss end up being the Cowboys gain?

Now that Terrell Owens’ career in Philadelphia is officially over, I’m still baffled at how the relationship between the star wide receiver and the Philadelphia fans went so bad so quickly. Even though I’ve lived in New York City for the last five years, having grown up in the Philadelphia suburbs I still share and understand the passion and frustration of Philadelphia sports fans. Owens seems to me like the type of player that Philadelphia should love to love, but just the opposite has occurred.

Consider the Terrell Owens era in the context of another Philadelphia athlete of Hall of Fame pedigree, Allen Iverson. The city has embraced Iverson to the point that his name is now synonymous with Philadelphia. But, remember all of his off-court problems? Domestic disputes, illegal weapons possession, controversial rap lyrics. And what about his on-court problems? Missing and showing up late to practice, his infamous “it’s just practice” press conference and mediating by Pat Croce to convince Larry Brown not to trade him to Detroit. All Owens did try was to get more money from his employer. Owens wasn’t personally asking each fan for a hand-out. He said some things that people found a little offensive, perhaps because they fear coming to grips with the reality of the franchise quarterback. He parked in Andy Reid’s parking spot one day. Certainly no disrespect is meant to Iverson, but Owens’ “problems” literally pale in comparison to Iverson’s, which is why I find the fans’ about-face toward him so perplexing. Where did Philly fans’ sense of humor go? Parking in Andy Reid’s spot is funny.

Many more "problems" than Owens

Somehow the local and national media, the fans and Eagles’ management converged to create the perfect storm of hostility, powerful enough to sweep Owens’ out of town. Led by captain ignoramus, Howard Eskin, fans actually buried an effigy of Owens in a coffin. That is ludicrous. Frankly, I thought Terrell Owens was fun. Remember all the TD celebrations, the wing flapping, the Monday Night Football promo with Nicolette Sheridan, the Superbowl? Those are reasons to like Owens, not vilify him.

Owens’ contribution on the field is indisputable. He simply made the Eagles a better team. And now that he’s gone they are a worse team, perhaps when they will need his abilities the most. The NFC East division that the Eagles have dominated for the last five years has gone through a power shift. The Giants, Cowboys and Redskins are all legitimate playoff contenders and the Eagles aren’t even as good the 2003 version that reached the NFC Championship game by the 4th and 26 miracle and only managed three points against Carolina.

What if?

Eagles management profoundly botched this situation. Iverson’s former boss Pat Croce has been vocal in the past about the fact that he wanted to buy the Eagles, but Jeffery Lurie beat him to it. We can only dream about how the patience and finesse with which Croce likely would have handled Owens and how a more diplomatic approach might have kept T.O. in Eagle green and, like Iverson, in the Philly fans’ good graces.

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