Sports fans tend to lump every athletic miscreant into the same barrel of knuckleheads. One caller to a local radio show said his girlfriend heard that the Seahawks this week hired the guy who fights dogs.
Um, no. That would be Michael Vick. The Seahawks hired Terrell Owens, the guy who has been a pain in the butt to his teammates and coaches. And 10 years ago at the Seahawks’ ballyard, pulled a Sharpie from his sock and autographed the ball he just caught for a touchdown.
In the Kingdom of Knuckleheadistan, Owens is the somewhere between village idiot and court jester. But as far as we know, he is not Sir Drink-and-Drug-Alot and hasn’t beaten women, children or dogs. But once the knucklehead label is acquired it sticks like cotton on barbed wire.
Which is not to say Owens does not richly deserve his place. A reminder came Wednesday, his first day of practice with his sixth NFL team, when an email arrived from Randall Kessler, the Atlanta attorney for one of Owens’ baby mamas.
“Given Terrell Owens new contract with the Seattle Seahawks, we will be filing a Motion to Dismiss his recently filed request for a reduction in child support,” the email read. “We are happy that he has found gainful employment and wish him the best in that endeavor. We wish him success in Seattle for himself and for the sake of his child he has with our client, and his other children.”
Owens has fathered four children by three women, who appeared with him May 9 on the “Dr. Phil” TV show in which he admitted, as he has elsewhere, to being broke, despite having earned more than $80 million in salary over his 15 previous seasons. The linked video is barely watchable, Knuckleheadism nearly at its saddest.
While not mentioning his poor record as a father, Owens did suggest to a swarming mob of local and national media after practice Wednesday at team headquarters that he has been pounding desperately on the re-set button.
“I’ve changed in the last couple of years,” he said. “Ive had a lot of time to think about things and I just want to move forward and leave all the others things in the past behind me.
That little child-support thing is going to be difficult to put behind him. But since he could earn up to $1 million this year, the notion that Owens, at 38 without other options, has some incentive to behave seems to have traction.
Even including use of the “H” word.
“A lot of people don’t expect me to use that word, ‘humble,'” he said. “But a lot of things have happened to (make me say) that word.”
Besides the financial foolishness, he injured his knee that required surgery and cost him the 2011 season. After rehab, he found himself taking a job playing indoor football for a team in Allen, TX., that shocked him.
“Playing in that atmosphere and to get here now,” he said, “it was like I was at the top and almost have to rebuild my career, start over.
“It was an eye-opener for me.”
Even though Owens said he was “glad it happened,” no one is glad for such things. It’s what is said to strangers when attempting to come out the backside to prove you’re OK.
Frankly, Owens is one desperate dude. He can’t afford to lose this job. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has all the keys and the tools in this deal, Owens knows it and and knows he’s not going to persuade anyone with words.
“The last two years have been life-changing for myself, so I dont want to sit here and say how much Ive changed,” he said. “I think you will see that. Its more about action (speaking) louder than words.”
For those new to Seattle sports history, Vince Coleman was acquired by the 1995 Mariners despite the fact that two years earlier, as a New York Met, he was convicted of endangerment after throwing a firecracker into a crowd of children at Dodger Stadium waiting for autographs, injuring three. Coleman had to do 200 hours of community service. But all was forgotten after he hit leadoff and helped ignite the Mariners’ preposterous run to the AL West Division title, which helped save baseball in Seattle.
Then there was Stevens, the prodigiously talented tight end from Olympia who helped take the University of Washington to the 2000 Rose Bowl and later the Seahawks to the 2006 Super Bowl. Stevens was truly a bad guy, with a litany of assaults, drug charges and DUIs from high school through his post-football career.
Coleman and Stevens are the kinds of people sports fans would not invite within a mile of dinner but are happy to have them around to win games. The dichotomy always has been with us, always will. Compared to these magnum knuckleheads, Owens is a .22.
Matt Flynn, who was named Tuesday to the most important playing position in Seattle sports, Seahawks starting quarterback, had one practice and a couple days to hang out with Owens, who has been notorious for eating quarterbacks whole for not getting him the ball.
“Since he’s been here, I’ve sat and talked with him a lot,” Flynn said. “He seems like nice guy. He’s here to make the team better, so we’re excited.
“The attitude we have here is going to be good for him and us.
Owens always seems like a nice guy. May even have been a nice guy. But games haven’t begun. It’s practice.
Like Owens said: Action, not words. Knuckleheadistan is a lot like The Hotel California: You can check out, but you can never leave.