Looking back at the season of TO

The Super Bowl, the culmination of the greatest American passions, stuffing oneself lightheaded with pizza and chicken wings while watching out of sync, lip-synced pop music performances on TV, interspersed with lowbrow beer commercials. Once and awhile a competitive football game is also played but hardly anyone particularly notices.

Congratulations to both the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts for battling their way through another bromidic season to make it to within ’60 minutes’ of the greatest brass ring in all of sports, the last pick in the NFL draft.

The intense build-up and frenzied hype to the latest installment of what is normally a supremely forgettable, anticlimactic, lopsided blowout was however a year long process. So let us reflect on the significant events of this past Pro Football season, otherwise known as the T.O. show.

Following the nasty feud between Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens during 2005 and T.O.’s subsequent commendable boot by Philly, the early off season was filled with daily speculation as to which owner would be concussed and greedy enough to pick up an exceptionally talented buffoon like T.O. Surprising no one, Jerry Jones and Dallas were equal to the task signing Owens to a 3 year, $25 million contract only four days after T.O.’s official release.

Hugely significant events that occurred also during the off season included completion of a collective bargaining agreement between owners and players that in comparison to MLB and the NHL, was concluded with about as much animosity as a hot rock massage, and retirement of Paul Tagliabue only the second League Commissioner in the last nearly half century. No one of course remembers any of this as serious fans were all too busy betting the early Vegas line on which week of the season T.O. would cause the notoriously hard-boiled Bill Parcells’ head to explode.

Team workouts and minicamps began in June with news that shattered the NFL universe when Ben Roethlissomething-or-other, QB for the reigning Super Bowl champ Pittsburgh Steelers, crashed his Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle. Touted as the fastest street legal bike on the road, Big Ben wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time of the accident and predictably landed on his face. Proving that quarterbacks aren’t necessarily the most intelligent players in the huddle.

July brought the hotly anticipated release of Terrell Owens’ book chronicling his tumultuous stint in Philadelphia. Modestly titled T.O. and written in the first person it was described by Owens as, ‘my words, straight from me to you.’ During a book signing at a Wal-Mart not far from the Cowboys headquarters, an uncharacteristically self-effacing T.O. was quick to distance himself from one particularly vain quote among many in the book complaining he was misquoted by, uh… himself.

The preseason saw the debut of the stylishly redesigned referees’ uniforms featuring wide white stripes and narrow black stripes that flare at the shoulder. Commenting on the new unies, head of NFL officials Stu Flaggem said, ‘Of course we have to keep up on today’s fashions. We are, after all, the primary focus on the field and we really needed to pimp our wardrobe to give our fans what they expect. Plus, none of us care to dress like the pizza-face kid at Foot Locker any longer.’

T.O. remained the media focus by doing nothing on the field. Missing 20 days of training camp workouts and all but the last preseason game with a sore hammy, Owens blamed the coaches for using him too much in practice and aggravating the injury. Dallas fans shrugged this off as T.O. just being T.O. and gave him a standing O when he finally trotted onto the field for his Dallas debut in the second quarter of the last preseason game. Clearly, NFL fans, like voters, get what they deserve.

The regular season finally kicked off with most fans unable to locate the Sunday night game or Monday Night Football on their TV dial. Thanks to former Commissioner Tagliabue, the Sunday night game had moved from ESPN to NBC, MNF from ABC to ESPN at 8:30 PM, and 10 billion dollars in broadcasting rights revenue over six years to NFL coffers. The season would see a further withering on the vine of MNF with a new booth crew which included the annoying veteran analyst Joe ‘eew that’s gotta hurt’ Theismann and the exceedingly annoying new color man Tony Corncobber. NBC’s Football Night in America on the other hand, with its flex scheduling kicking in in the second half of the season went from the stinko game of the day to the pick of the litter.

In the Big Tuna, T.O. stare-down, Owens blinked first when news broke in late September that he had been rushed to hospital. Owens was once again out of the line-up with a broken hand suffered in the second week of the season and on 26, September, a 911 call summoned rescue workers to his home. Initial police reports indicated an attempted suicide but were subsequently censored to describe an ‘accidental overdose.’ T.O.’s publicist who made the emergency call later characterized the incident as an ‘allergic reaction’, and T.O. himself said he became ‘groggy’ after mixing painkillers and nutritional supplements.

Whatever really happened, the incident only added to T.O.’s legend of lunacy. And for my associates down at Double D’s Pool Bar (shameless plug, watch the game there Sunday) it supports the argument that while one may accidentally fail in a suicide attempt, one cannot accidentally succeed. I trust that’s settled.

October saw the further assault by T.O. on Howard Stern’s crown, King of all Media, with the announcement of his second book titled (I swear I’m not making this up) Little T Learns To Share. The first in a planned series of children’s books, co-author Courtney Parker said, “It’s a life lesson for discipline. It’s ironic because he’s considered one of the more undisciplined players in the NFL.”

You don’t say?

Future titles, Little T Learns What Not To Say, and Little T Learns To Say I’m Sorry were set for release in 2007. Conceptual ideas for additional tomes include, Little T Learns Not to Open Child Proof Caps, Little T Learns Not to be Tardy and Sleep in Class, and Little T Gets Hickory Switched Within an Inch of His Life.

Boding ill for an early rocket up the bestseller list, Bertha Clampett, Wal-Mart patron, lifelong Cowboys fan and six-time mom scoffed, ‘Book! What in tarnation would I spend my welfare check on a book fer little Shi’thedd fer? Even if’n he could read, he don’t git up from that thar Sony’s PlayStation but long nuff tah fetch another sack a Cheetos.’

The media inscrutably lost interest in T.O. briefly in November but remained focused on the Cowboys when veteran starting QB Drew Bledsoe was benched for four-year backup Tony Romo. After amassing a 4-1 career starting record capped with a revenge victory against the NY football Giants, the cyber pundits fawningly anointed Romo the second coming of Roger Staubach and confidently predicted his inevitable trip to Canton. Romo immediately took advantage of his 15 minutes by dating Jessica Simpson and suing the Tony Roma’s rib joint chain for copyright infringement on his name.

Worthy of Greek tragedy, Romo would eventually end up the biggest goat in Texas following his flubbing the snap of what would have been a last minute game winning field goal in Dallas’ Wildcard playoff loss to Seattle. It is yet to be known if this monumental screw-up will affect his confidence both on the field and behind closed doors with Jessica.

The regular season ended with most of the usual suspects making the playoffs and the usual carnage among the coaching staffs of teams that didn’t.

In the more spineless head coaching move, Nick ‘to challenge or not to challenge’ Saban slinked out of Miami for Tuscaloosa after repeated denials he would leave the Dolphins maintaining he wished to finish what he started. The Alabama boosters made Saban an offer he couldn’t refuse apparently recognizing those qualities most desirable in a head coach, indecisiveness, disloyalty and greed. Roll Tide, roll.

Parcells folded and walked away from coaching leaving the circus to the clowns. T.O. wasted no time weighing in saying it was best for Parcells to call it quits. “I still think he is a great guy. But he is like my grandmother. You love the person, but they are stuck in their old-school ways. You can’t move them from their way of thought,” said Owens.

This, as you might expect, didn’t quite go over so well with the radio call in crowd and sports bloggers and a wounded Owens complained this week during an NFL Network interview, “I get no respect no matter what I do. I had a bum hand. I didn’t let anyone know, I just played. I played with half a leg in the Super Bowl. I guess I won’t get respect until I have a limb dangling off me.”

No Little T, that’s not how one earns respect, but perhaps a good start would be advice from Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, ‘Men are respectable only as they respect.’

And so there’s nothing left now but the halftime show featuring entertainment by Prince, formerly known as an artist.

I’ll have my pizza with everything and wings Chernobyl hot.

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