The Absurdity of the Terrell Owens Sideline Blowup Condemnation

What gets me about this is the kind of utterly ludicrous things people who know better said in reaction to it. A couple of my “favorites” are from Cris Collinsworth and Brian Baldinger.

Collinsworth, who was doing color commentary during the game:

“Speaking of disruptive…yelling at Greg Knapp. What’s Greg Knapp gonna do, go play tackle?…I know about 3 offensive linemen I played with would’ve knocked him out at that point.”

You mean what’s the offensive coordinator going to do about the offense? The guy whose job is to call the plays? Yeah, what could he possibly have to do with anything when it comes to Owens being frustrated about losing 28-0 and not getting involved in the offense?

The funny thing is, if the 49ers had been tearing up the league offensively to that point, Collinsworth would’ve been talking about what a great job Greg Knapp was doing with the offense. What great scheming and play calling. Those little things, you know?

But he’s only allowed to be credited with success, never failure.

Maybe Greg Knapp could try not running with 10 in the box on 4th and 2 when the team is in Vikings’ territory trailing 28-0 late in the 3rd quarter. I’m no offensive coordinator, but how about a play action bootleg instead? And if it doesn’t work, feel free to yell at me if you have a better idea, because it’s kind of my job to get the most out of my offensive players.

And then there’s this gem from Brian Baldinger:

In the 49ers’ game the following week against the Lions, Baldinger reacted to his play-by-play colleague’s mention that Owens had apologized to Knapp for the outburst:

“How big of him. After publicly humiliating him on the sidelines.”

The utter absurdity of this. First of all, the snide, “how big of him” remark, as though Owens was actually apologizing for murdering Knapp’s entire family or some other unforgivable offense. And then he wants us to think about how a freak’n FOOTBALL COACH was “publicly humiliated” by a player yelling at him on the damn sidelines.

First of all, humiliation is experienced by the person being humiliated, not the audience. Since Baldinger isn’t Knapp, he is cluelessly telling everyone how Knapp personally felt about the incident. Maybe Knapp didn’t care and understood it was part of the game, having had the likes of Steve Young and Jerry Rice scream at him before?

But even worse, Baldinger’s talking about an authority figure in a culture where said authority figures are expected to scream and curse at their players when they make mistakes, commanding respect from their team…being the victim of one of his players yelling at him.

If he was humiliated, whose fault was that? If Terrell Owens was yelling at Bill Parcells or Mike Ditka or Bill Cowher or any other coach known for a tough, aggressive personality, would that have been “humiliating” them? If it upset them that Owens was yelling at them, do you think they’d just sit there and look at him with puppy eyes? Or do you think they might just scream back at him?

You know, like Bill O’Brien did to Tom Brady. Or Bill Callahan to Rich Gannon. Or Todd Haley to Anquan Boldin.

And if they didn’t want to scream back at him and considered his reaction unacceptable, they can calmly tell him he’s benched, going to be suspended, etc. After all, they have that kind of power.

This is what the narrative on Terrell Owens did to people. It overrode all sense of logic, everything even former players knew about the game, and created absurd reactions to fit the talking points. They would have you believe that Owens was so bad and evil in his soul that he had the power to make a drill sergeant cry himself to sleep with his UNKNOWN WORDS. The guy whom Bill Parcells said in an interview after retiring, “is a pleasant enough kid. He’s not mean-spirited, he’s not vulgar. He’s really OK in that respect.”

And why? Well, in 2003, all he’d done to this point were some outlandish touchdown celebrations and publicly say he thought the team/Mariucci caved to pressure from the media when they suspended him. From that, we know that Owens is a super-villain.

And the reason this incident was captured on television, and the reason it was important for generating the expansion of anti-Owens sentiment into new genres? It was the 49ers vs. Vikings and the media was billing it as Terrell Owens vs. Randy Moss. They latched onto this game they love to remind you is a “team game” being about just two players going against each other, even though they weren’t even on the field at the same time. And when Moss was “winning,” having a dominating performance as his team was up 28-0, and Owens was “losing,” it was the perfect time to go with the narrative that Owens couldn’t handle “losing” to Moss. So in the post-game questions, the reporters asked Owens questions with the specific intent to claim that story. The 28-0 on the scoreboard would be dismissed as far as being a factor in Owens’s frustration. Owens celebrated touchdowns in a grandiose fashion, hence he must be selfish, and hence he must care as much as the media about “Owens vs. Moss.”

So their mission was to “find out who Owens blames for him not getting the ball while Randy Moss showed him up.” Mariucci was gone, so was it Greg Knapp? Oh, how about Jeff Garcia? He was benched for Tim Rattay and obviously hasn’t been playing well, so let’s ask him that inflammatory question, and even after he gives us a politically correct answer when we ask him, “do you think it’s time for a quarterback change” (“that’s not my position to say we need a quarterback change, but Rat did a good job when he was in there. All the quarterbacks can throw deep, it’s all about timing. Whoever is at quarterback, I’m going to catch the ball. Even if it’s (Ken) Dorsey, I’m going to catch the ball”), we’ll claim he implied it was time for a quarterback change and called out Garcia. And then with that fictional headline, we’ll tell Garcia that’s what he said, even though he didn’t, and upset Garcia to create actual animosity between them. That’ll make nice, controversial news, and then we’ll have a new narrative to run with to replace our Owens/Mariucci narrative: “Owens and Garcia hate each other.”

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