No player I’ve ever met craved getting into his sports’ hall of fame as much as Terrell Owens. Also, no player ever seemed more hurt by the snub of exclusion.
So when Canton finally came calling, what did T.O. do? Well, he took his bust and stayed home.
“While I am incredibly appreciative of this opportunity, I have made the decision to publicly decline my invitation to attend the induction ceremony,” Owens wrote on Twitter last week, adding, “At a later date, I will announce where and when I will celebrate my induction.”
When you think about it, this may have been the most T.O. moment of his career. He got exactly what he yearned for – and then could not savor the experience with everyone else.
No player, coach or executive has ever willingly skipped the induction ceremony in the 55-year history of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Who would decline the ultimate honor of the sport? I know of one inductee a few years back who had to schedule chemotherapy appointments around the trip to Canton, but still made it.
But Owens – hold your breath here – is different from anyone else. We learned that during his season-and-a-half with the Philadelphia Eagles, which began with hope and highlights, and ended with him performing protest sit-ups in his South Jersey driveway.
And now he is protesting again. Perhaps it’s lingering anger over being slighted by the Hall of Fame voters his first two years of eligibility. Perhaps there’s something else. ESPN’s Marcellus Wiley said he spoke to T.O. on Friday, and was told, “Sometimes you’ve got to do the wrong thing for the right reason.”
Asked how he interpreted that explanation, Wiley said, “It sounds like he wants to amplify some message, but I don’t know what that message is.”
I cannot interpret it either. Maybe Owens will reveal some greater cause he’s looking to publicize. Maybe he’s still in a snit. But I do know this – the entire episode is unfortunate, and most especially so for T.O.
If you read Terrell Owens’ autobiography, you get the story of someone who grew up lonely, scared, and did not fit in. If you followed his career, you see a pattern of self-destructive actions. I’ve talked to former Eagles teammates who spoke about both Owens’ brilliance and insecurity.
Last June, I sat down with Owens for a one-hour, one-on-one interview. He ruefully reflected on his time in Philadelphia as a blown opportunity (although he still blamed a lot of his divorce from the Eagles on Donovan McNabb). He called Andy Reid the best coach he ever played for, and said that had he stayed, “We could have made magic for years.”
Stability wasn’t in the cards then and it doesn’t seem to be now. T.O. is the perennial outsider, even when he’s invited into the most exclusive club in football.
Things will still go on, of course. They’ll hold the enshrinement ceremony in early August, and legends will slip on those gold jackets and deliver overly long speeches. Eagles fans will be there, celebrating Brian Dawkins’ induction.
Perhaps, from somewhere far away, Terrell Owens will watch it on TV. Perhaps he’ll be wistful. Perhaps he’ll still be mad. I don’t know.
But I know one thing. He’ll miss the opportunity to have all those folks in green serenade him one more time with that “T.Ooooo, T.O., T.O., T.O.” song that we all sang back in 2004. And that’s just sad.