- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

A career spent courting the cameras doesn’t guarantee control of the script.

As reasonable as Terrell Owens’ explanation for a 911 call and emergency-room visit Tuesday night sounded, it’s already competing with a much more sinister, connect-the-dots version for which he bears most of the responsibility.

Tough.

Anybody who has watched a reality show run off the rails knows how that works.

Owens called a press conference yesterday to say what was described as “a drug overdose” in a Dallas police department report was simply an adverse reaction to some painkillers and natural supplements he had taken together. It made plenty of sense.

“It’s very unfortunate for it to go from an allergic reaction to a suicide attempt,” he said.

He’s right. If this were almost any other athlete, he would be off the hook by now.

But Owens has worked hard to transform himself into the poster child for cynicism. Before yesterday, even he didn’t believe half the things that came out of his mouth. That made plenty of sense, too.

At both his previous NFL stops before Dallas, T.O. would mock opponents and call it exuberance or hold out for more money and call it a case of persecution. He would pull the rug out from under a teammate, coach or owner — or all three — then question their manhood or their stamina and then call a press conference and deny everything.

“Who are you going to believe?” Owens’ defense always went. “Me or your lying eyes?”

The real shame is that this once, at least, most of us would like to believe him. There’s nothing remotely funny about suicide and depression. Yet Owens wore a faint smile throughout his brief public appearance, suggesting even he was amused, finally, by what people were willing to believe about him.

T.O., after all, had just walked in off the practice field a picture of health. He’s tough enough, obviously, so that whatever ailed him was cured. And he’s barely six months into a three-year, $25 million contract with the Cowboys that was supposed to buy his loyalty, a point his publicist, Kim Etheredge, made when she waved off reports of a suicide attempt by wisecracking, “Terrell has 25 million reasons why he should be alive.”

But that’s part of the problem. The only athletes who need publicists are the ones who make a point of saying and doing outrageous things all the time. Every once in a while, they’re bound to reap the whirlwind.

Considering the tragic twists this episode could have taken, watching Owens undermine a third team finishes far down the list. But soon enough, Owens is going to talk himself out of another job. Considering he’s already an old 32, there will be fewer owners willing to take the same risk.

Owens has to be on the wrong side of coach Bill Parcells, who despite not having a clue about Owens’ health or frame of mind, is certainly growing tired of his act. The hamstring injury that sidelined T.O. for most of the preseason was essentially the same thing that kept stellar receivers Steve Smith of Carolina and Hines Ward of Pittsburgh on the shelf for the same time. But neither of those turned into episodic dramas.

On this day, Parcells preceded Owens on the stage, but he wasn’t half as revealing — about anything.

“When I find out what the [heck] is going on, you will know,” he said, just before getting up from his chair and heading for the exit. “Until then, I’m not getting interrogated for no reason.”

Parcells got that last bit right. There’s nothing in this story that needs discussing, though of course it won’t end there. It will fester like every other story about T.O. does and then attach itself to the next one. Soon enough, he will become more of a problem than Parcells and owner Jerry Jones are willing to deal with.

That’s what happened in San Francisco and Philadelphia. It’s no coincidence that trouble never has a hard time finding T.O.

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