Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How about a new three strikes rule?

I’ve been asked a few times if I will start watching the NFL now that Mr. Owens has been removed from the Cowboys. I remind those people that had my problem been only with the Cowboys, then I would have found a new team to cheer for. But my complaint is not just with the Dallas team, but the league itself. I find it incomprehensible that an entire league continues to sanction the behavior of people like Owens, who are not just “selfish,” but who tear down entire franchises and who have changed the face of football much for the worse. Professional football is less a competition centered on moving an oval up and down a large grassy patch as it is a reality show where the most outrageous personalities not only get the most attention but the get paid millions of dollars for their antics.

Sports has always had its self-centered players. And one might say that the position of wide receiver seems to be an inherently selfish one. At least it is a position where the player seems less likely to see the whole of the game. I once heard Troy Aikman comment that Michael Irvin always thought he was open. In Irvin’s case, as with those before him, it may have been as much confidence in his ability to catch the ball in traffic or over a defensive back that prompted such talk. But Owens is not just a guy who thinks he is open when he is not. He seems unable to see that he is not the center of the universe. Remember last season when over half the offensive plays directly involved him, and he still publically complained that he didn’t get the ball enough? Sadly there are too many people like him in football

For all the good that Roger Goodell has done to improve the image of the National Football League, I’m not sure I’ll be satisfied until there is a three strikes policy for athletes like Mr. Owens. This person has had an opportunity to succeed for three teams. Each franchise (not just the team) is worse off for his having been there. Each team worried too much about how “T.O.” would react to this or that. Each team ran itself darn near into the ground by wrapping decisions, on and off the field, around his warped and destructive personality.

I predicted after Philadelphia lost the Super Bowl that Owens would never have a Super Bowl ring. And his relegation to Buffalo is likely to help prove my point. Sure, he will make some great catches. He’ll generate some excitement for a franchise stuck in the nether world. But he is likely to do little more than wreak havoc.

Owens has had his chances. Already too many of them. We have policies concerning athletes who take drugs because, among other reasons, they knowingly bring harm to themselves and to the teams that invest in them. Owens is a drug. Feels good at first, despite being a little scary. But look down the road, and you see nothing but waste. It is time for the NFL to get out while it can.