Monday, September 20, 2004

The "Talented Asshole" Theory
I confess to a certain level of moralizing in my sports-fandom. I want my favorite teams to be comprised of men of strong will and generous nature, fierce on the field but humble everywhere else, pillars of their communities who live righteously and do honor both to their professions and the city they represent. For instance, it bothered me to hear, a few years ago, that the 1993 Phillies were less a bunch of throwbacks who "played the game right" than a collection of mean-spirited whoremongers and goons (aside from Mickey Morandini, gentleman and family man, or so went the story). For the most part, the Philadelphia teams of the last 20 years have lived up to this standard.

Enter Terrell Owens, already a candidate for deification after just one game in Eagles green with his three touchdown receptions last week. This guy is, to put it mildly, an asshole. There might be no "I" in "Terrell", but after publicly attacking his former coordinator and quarterback in San Francisco, any letters in common with "team" are probably strictly coincidence. True, he hasn't broken the law, gotten into fights with fans or otherwise transgressed off the field--unless you count his disgusting homophobic comments directed at that same ex-teammate, quarterback Jeff Garcia--but between the lines, and on the sidelines, he's about as charming as herpes. Whether he'll break out the Sharpie or pom-poms again evidently remains to be seen, but his sideline strutting and endzone mugging left a bad enough taste in my mouth.

Maybe this is a good sign. The generally admirable Philadelphia teams of the last twenty-plus years haven't exactly piled up championship trophies.

And just maybe, talented assholes like Owens can help in the collection of such things. I got to thinking about all the teams I've really hated over the years, the smirking villains who've knocked out the Eagles and their city brethren, and it seems like as many of those rivals as not had an Owens analogue among their ranks. Whether it was the 1990s Dallas Cowboys of felons Michael Irvin and Leon Lett, the New Jersey Devils of Claude Lemieux, or the New York Mets teams led by Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Gary Carter, the guys with the black hats and twirly mustaches have beaten up on feckless Philadelphia teams, crushing dreams and breaking hearts, for a long time now.

With Owens leading the way, I'm ready to accept a trip to the dark side for a parade down Broad Street. And I gotta admit... it was pretty cool when he spiked the ball on the Dallas Cowboys star after scoring at Texas Stadium a few years back. Sometimes you have to fight asshole with asshole.

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