Posted: Thursday January 27, 2005 1:15PM; Updated: Thursday January 27, 2005 1:20PM
Philadelphia fans fuel the fire for the Terrell Owens' Super Bowl watch.
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El Hombre took his hijo to the doctor this week, hoping to find the answer to a fortnight of hacking, coughing and other nasal-related misery and to receive clearance to ship the muchacho back to school. Good news: The medicine man came through. Turns out it's a small sinus infection that should be cleared up with a 10-day course of some low-grade antibiotics.
Problem was, instead of taking his medicine, getting some rest and drinking plenty of fluids, as the doctor ordered, the kid took off his clothes and went out and sat in the snow for an hour. After thawing him out and uttering a few oaths that would make Randy Moss blush, El Hombre realized he knew exactly what Andy Reid must feel like.
Despite receiving word from one of the nation's foremost orthopedic men that he should not risk further injury to his broken fibula by attempting to play in Super Bowl XXXIX, Terrell Owens, prize Eagles receiver and social lightning rod, has decided to go full-speed ahead with his plans to make the scene in Jacksonville. It's not enough that Philadelphia was graced by a Doctor on the basketball court during the 1970s and '80s; now it has a surgeon playing football.
The worst part about all of this is that fans -- particularly those in Philadelphia -- will be subjected for the next week-plus to daily (hourly?) reports on T.O.'s status. ESPN has decided that Sal Paolantonio will not sleep until he finds out whether Owens will indeed play, even if that means getting an exclusive interview with the two-inch screw residing in the receiver's leg. Forget about the two great defensive coordinators, the quarterback battle between Tom Brady and Donovan McNabb or whether Bill Belichick will ever consent to that personality transplant. It's all T.O., all the time.
In a way, you can't blame Owens for wanting to play. He is an elite athlete, and the Super Bowl is the ultimate showcase. He came to Philadelphia to win and was a huge part of the Eagles' 13-1 bolt from the gate. His mere presence on the sidelines in the NFC championship game as a towel-waving cheerleader/jumping bean had a positive effect on the club. Just imagine what it would mean to the Birds to have him suited up and capable of playing anywhere close to his Pro Bowl level on Feb. 6. It's enough to make Reid show some emotion. Or to convince Todd Pinkston to go over the middle. Maybe.
Owens is a competitor, and his sitting out of the most important contest of his career isn't an option for him. When he says he's going to be there, he means it. Besides, there is no guarantee the Eagles will be back this way again. At some point, the NFC has to become a legitimate football conference again, doesn't it?
But in the look-at-me world of professional sports, there's something else at work, something less savory and pure than just a top-flight receiver's desire to participate in The Big Game. An ego the size of Owens' can't bear to be on the sidelines at such a seminal moment in Eagles' history. It's like the movie Patton. After Ike yanks the mouthy general from the fray, Patton fumes about being unable to wage war at a time when there is so much war to be waged. He also realizes there is glory out there, and he craves it. "Hell, I know I'm a prima donna," he says. If Owens were to be honest with all of us, he would say the same thing. And if, by some chance (more on that next week), the Eagles should win without him, that would be almost too much for him to take.
So, Owens is on the treadmill. And the elliptical trainer. He's in the pool. The hyperbaric chamber. He's working the beads. Consulting the oracles. He wants to play. He needs to play, consequences be damned. And while the Eagles' lawyers draw up the necessary documents absolving them from future liability should Owens' leg disintegrate at first contact, the showy wide receiver can take solace in the fact that if he doesn't make it or is nothing more than a high-priced decoy, he has accomplished one goal during the interminable run-up to Super Bowl XXXIX:
It's been all about him.
El Hombre sez: Clem and Beulah Johnson of Sheep's Entrails, Mont., check in to report they have named their new niņo E. Hombre Johnson, in honor of the worldly sage's 5-1 record against the NFL point spread the last two weeks, a success rate that fattened young E. Hombre's college savings account considerably. ... The NHL has finally happened upon a scheme to make its regular season worthwhile, and all it took was a crippling work stoppage. Should the two sides come to an agreement -- hardly a guarantee -- the next five months of hockey will look like this: a 24-game regular "season," followed by a come-one, come-all playoff tournament. To quote the Guinness chaps, "Brilliant!" Here's hoping that's the format from here on out. ... Nice to see Ron Artest back practicing with the Indiana Pacers. When asked whether it was possible the rap impresario might return to the hardwood this year, NBA commissioner David Stern replied, "He has a puncher's chance."
And another thing: The case of Barret Robbins is one of the saddest in recent sports history. The former Oakland Raiders center lies in a Miami hospital on a ventilator, fighting to recover from gunshot wounds he sustained from a police officer's gun. Should he recover, Robbins must face three counts of attempted felony murder. The real crime is he probably didn't realize what he was doing at the time. Robbins is bipolar, a condition which leads to manic-depressive swings in his mood. At one moment, he can feel euphoric; in another state, he is suicidal. In between is a behavioral spectrum that can damage relationships, inhibit job performance and erode the desire to live. It's tempting to dismiss Robbins' situation as another football player gone wild, but it should be viewed as yet another cry for American society to start considering mental illness the same way we look at diabetes and heart disease. This is serious business, folks. Pray for Robbins' recovery. And hope America begins to treat mental illness with the gravity it deserves.