Football made him, football taketh away
Apologies if I'm parroting anyone else's knee-jerk reactions, but I really can't stomach seeing what the blogosphere and its citizens have to say about the T.O. incident.
Let's start by dispensing with the obvious. Every year, plenty of professional athletes deal with the pressure of the business without trying to off themselves. Without question, Owens is not right in the head. Suicide is a terrible thing, even if it's most often an indication of a need for (further) attention. And really, any attempt to inject confusion into the situation is pure spin; swallowing thirty-five tylenols all at once can kill you, so anything prescription is most definitely a nod in the direction of self-destruction.
But to echo Brickowski's feelings on shoefly's earth-bending comment, this all seems a little too eerie. Terrell Owens isn't just a "difficult" player, a man who never quite put down his childhood demons, or the victim of one of the sports media's most peristent hatchet jobs ever. He was football's public enemy #1, an absolute colossus of an player whose actions and words just always seemed to run counter to NFL culture. At some point, you have to ask yourself whether Owens wasn't being made into a monster by a series of distortive expectations and demands, whether the fault was with the NFL beholder that interpreted him the way it did. What's more, the joke he had become to most football fans tells us plenty about the prevailing national mood, and its effect on our country's dominant sport. It's depressing that he felt he had no other choice; it's even more demoralizing to consider how this will be received, and how little it will change about his standing among fans and the media.
It would be to facile to claim that the NFL almost killed Terrell Owens, but I will say this: right now, the NFL, its business, followers, mores, culture, and goals of utter domination are the closest America gets to a soccer-style sports army. And in typical USA fashion, we don't just put our stamp on a universal langugage; we've built our own fortress, armed our troops to the teeth, and pushed forward through a policy of utter intolerance and ignorance. I can't really defend Owens's past behavior; nor can I explain why Bonds hasn't done the without making drastic pronouncements about T.O.'s mental health. But if ever I needed a reason to abandon the NFL, this and Monday's sin of omission have convinced me that it's at odds with most of what I value in this world ethically and politically.
I can't say that this will keep me from checking in on Chris Henry now and then, marveling at LT's artistry, or even caring about the state of my fantasy teams. What these two days have made me sure of, however, is that I'll never be able to buy wholesale into the frisson that is playoff football, the Ring Lardner-like magic of each and every Sunday, or the false tidiness of the NFL Films-style tale-telling. Owens is just the latest, most grotesquely metaphoric, of the figures who reveal football's sordid underbelly: Lawrence Taylor, Rae Carruth, everyone on the Ravens. . . this sport has serious issues, most of which stem from its cycle of repression, explosion, and damage control. In the end, buying into its mythology is like staking one's heart and soul on Douglas Sirk picture where all the male leads are homosexuals; maybe it's better entertainment, but I'd prefer to stick with sports where I know I'm not watching the wheels of hegemony on the prowl.
LATE DAY REVISION: Part of me has no idea what to make of this incident anymore, but the louder faction says this: Owens is obviously fucked in the head, likely governed by patterns and moods that the average sane person can't fathom, and is too football to admit anything of this nature to the media. Who knows if the truth will ever emerge; for the purposes of this post, though, it doesn't really matter. The basic sentiment holds true and the line of reasoning intact, even if this is no longer the unclouded tragedy it seemed like this morning. Fight on that lie.