- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

When he takes a break today from writing his next Pulitzer Prize winner, “Little T Learns to Spit,” Terrell Owens can pick up a copy of Time magazine’s Person of the Year issue and admire his reflection on the cover. Yes, America’s most esteemed newsweekly has decided that 2006 was the Year of T.O.

Don’t spoil it for him by telling him it’s also the Year of Everybody Else, the year of “You” — of our commandeering of the Information Age, our self-empowerment through the Internet. Owens, after all, might get upset and take another accidental overdose of pills. And you wouldn’t want that on your conscience, especially during the holiday season.

Or would you?

The latest newsflash from T.O. Land is that the Cowboys receiver used Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall as his own personal spittoon over the weekend. Unfortunately for Hall, his helmet doesn’t have one of those windshields, never mind a wiper. Terrell, in a rare spasm of responsibility, actually admitted to the crime but wasn’t terribly remorseful. What, after all, is a little saliva among friends?

At least Bill Romanowski had an alibi, sort of, when he spat at J.J. Stokes a while back: He was in the grip of steroid rage. (Why else would he “cream” ball carriers the way he did, knock them “clear” to kingdom come?) But what’s Owens’ defense? That people are making an ocean out of a globule, a deluge out of a few drops? Please.

Truth is, T.O.’s behavior passed the boundarie s of rationality a long time ago. And now, after Saturday’s abomination, he runs the risk of becoming a Man Without a Country — or perhaps a Man Without a Demographic Group. I mean, let’s face it, he’s alienated players (who overwhelmingly voted him the “most annoying” guy in the league in a Sports Illustrated poll), he’s alienated coaches (Steve Mariucci, Andy Reid, et al.), he’s alienated gays (with his silly swipe at Jeff Garcia’s sexuality) and he’s no doubt alienated much of the black community — first by spitting verbally on Donovan McNabb, then by spitting literally on Hall.

Heck, even the nutcases have probably removed his posters from their bedroom walls. Think about it: If the patients at the Cuckoo’s Nest were choosing up teams for a basketball game, would McMurphy take Owens? Not a chance. For one thing, T.O would never feed the Chief in the low post; he’d be too busy firing up 3s or trying to dunk on Danny DeVito.

It’s gotten so bad for Owens that he has to throw birthday parties for himself. It’s gotten so bad that Deion Sanders, one of the first to his side after his “near-death” experience in September, is distancing himself from him. And if Deion, his role model, isn’t on his side, then T.O. has truly gone beyond the pale. (Which doesn’t mean the NFL Network won’t try to wire him for sound the next time it televises a Cowboys game.)

Over the years, Owens’ teammates learned to ignore his antics — just as the members of the 4077th MASH unit learned to ignore Klinger. The last few seasons, though, he’s been harder to filter out. His sulking over his contract — and subsequent suspension — helped sink the 2005 Eagles, and this year we’ve gone from the Overdose Business to the Sleeping Disorder Business to the Parcells Never Should Have Cut Vanderjagt Business to the Somebody At Valley Ranch Is Snitching On Me Business to the Spitting Business, which yesterday earned him a $35,000 fine.

Already, though, another “business” is warming up in the bullpen: the T.O. Is Playing With A Tendon Injury In His Right Ring Finger And Could Suffer Permanent Damage Business. Sure beats the Spitting Business.

As fate would have it, the Cowboys’ next game is against the Eagles on — can it be? — Christmas Day. There won’t be a lot of holiday cheer spread on that field, not with the NFC East title at stake and not with Garcia, Owens’ second-favorite quarterback, playing for Philadelphia. T.O. has already freaked out once this season after losing to McNabb in Philly. If he loses to Garcia in Dallas, he may head straight for the medicine cabinet. (Those childproof safety caps could prove tricky, however, with that finger injury.)

Terrell Owens. What are you gonna do with him? He just turned 33, but in so many ways he’s still — and will always be — that kid in his book, “Little T.”

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