Terrell Owens is one of the greatest NFL receivers ever, period.
He’s also one of the strangest NFL players ever, period.
The latter has no bearing on the former, or at least it shouldn’t. But Owens continually proves he’s in a class by himself, which will be the case during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Aug. 4.
Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher will be in Canton, Ohio, adorned in resplendent gold jackets. Meanwhile, Owens will be 450 miles away at his alma mater, Tennessee-Chattanooga, conducting a private ceremony (open to the public). We have no clue what he’ll wear, because the Hall of Fame isn’t mailing his jacket until that morning.
Owens’ reasons for skipping the official induction celebration are unclear. He surely believes he should’ve gotten in sooner, during his first or second year on the ballot. He might have a point, but that feels shy of just cause to be a no-show.
As much as Owens loves the spotlight, it’s hard to believe he’d easily bypass the stage in Canton. Perhaps he harbors a grudge against the sportswriters who kept him waiting. I don’t agree with his decision, but I understand the sentiment, particularly if others are in Gary Myers’ camp.
Myers, the former New York Daily News writer, led anti-Owens campaigns in 2016 and 2017 before voting for him this year. But the veteran journalist later revealed the sort of attitude that draws so much anger and distrust from athletes and fair-minded observers.
“If I knew he would not show up, I would have voted for somebody who would have,” Myers tweeted last month.
Sure, elect someone else instead of the guy who’s second in all-time receiving yards, third in touchdown catches and eighth in receptions. Myers’ cavalier approach to Owens’ merit and place in NFL history is appalling. It also would be shocking to discover he’s the only writer with such feelings.
I still don’t understand Owens’ choice to stay away.
But failing to comprehend how his mind operates is nothing new.
For instance, there’s no reason to believe an NFL team would have the faintest interest in him. Even if the excessive drama that accompanied him in his prime wasn’t a factor, he’s 44 years old and hasn’t played since 2010. Yet, his agent Jason Staroszik said Owens “100 percent” wants to play again.
“He wants to play in the NFL,” Staroszik told ESPN Tuesday. “But if he can’t, the CFL is the next-best option.”
The Edmonton Eskimos own his CFL rights. They added him to their negotiation list after a recent social media video indicated that Owens ran a 40-yard dash in under 4.45 seconds. Apparently, his athleticism is aging well.
Physical tools were never the question with Owens. Concerns always circled around his makeup — mentally and emotionally — even as he developed into an all-time great on the field. We still don’t know the depths of what might’ve troubled him during his career, or what still might be at work.
But doing his own thing instead of joining his HOF classmates is almost what we’d expect, totally in line with his controversial persona. Too bad he couldn’t bring himself to attend the induction ceremony. And too bad he’ll barely be acknowledged.
“The focus is on the guys who are here,” HOF executive director Joe Horrigan told Talk of Fame Network. “There’s no reason to bring him up as an individual. He’s not here.”
Owens will be included when the Class of 2018 is mentioned. He’s also included on all depictions of the class. But his name won’t be uttered at the Friday Gold Jacket dinner and he won’t be recognized that Saturday when individuals are introduced during the nationally-televised ceremony.
“I think it’s the right move,” Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin told reporters last week. “They’re not saying he’s not going to have a bust in the room. They’re not saying he’s not getting his jacket. They’re saying ‘We’re honoring his wish. He doesn’t want to be here with us, we’re going to mention him as little as possible.”
The show must go on and seven other inductees will be on hand. Their moment shouldn’t be overshadowed by someone who declined to be present.
That said, I don’t know if the Hall is making the correct move. It seems a tad hardcore.
On the other hand, Owens clearly is making a regrettable move.
But both parties are acting within their rights — wrong or not.
⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.
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