Has Virtue KO'd T.O.?

** FILE ** Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens sits on the bench during the first half against the Washington Redskins in this Nov. 21, 2004 photo, in Philadelphia. Owens was suspended indefinitely by the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday, two days after he criticized the organization for not publicly recognizing his 100th career touchdown catch two weeks ago. (AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy) AP

The Philadelphia Eagles have expelled the rude, strutting rude wide receiver, Terrell Owens from their team and I desperately would like for the story to be about the triumph of virtue.

It probably isn't though, which is too bad — it would have made for a tidier column.

In the end, Terrell Owens will take his millions and his boundless bucket of personal entitlement to a new team that will give him millions more. The Gridiron God will probably not reward the worthy Eagles with a triumphant, movie-worthy season. The media-sports money machine will continue to create bad boy celebrities and profit from there downfall by ginning up more television ratings, Web pageviews and radio call-ins. And little boys playing touch football in schoolyards across America will probably not learn lifelong lessons about how me-firsters and bad sports never win in the long run.

But blast all that it; I'm going to give it a go and commence with my sworn duty to make something complex and ambiguous into something black and white and terribly simplistic and polemical.

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles for doing the right thing.

No qualifiers, no hedges — they did good. They are now my second favorite team. T.O. is a bum and they dumped his boastful butt. What is important is that the team has acted against its financial interests in protecting its best interests.

On pure athletic accomplishment, Owens is the Eagles best player. Though they were in the Super Bowl last year, they have had a bunch of injuries that make the odds of a good post-season run this year much longer without Owens. They will still have the pleasure of paying the conceited rat his full salary even if they quarantine him. And they will have to spend more money on lawyer's fees defending themselves from a grievance filed by the millionaire's labor union.

So far, Philadelphia's fans seem to be with them. An online (yes, unscientific) poll on Philly.com showed that the 12,459 people who had voted as of 9:02 Tuesday morning supported the Eagles over T.O. Will this moral steadiness endure some heartbreaking losses? Will hell freeze over?

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridanhas already found a possible scapegoat for Owens' troubles -- ESPN (ESPN.com first aired Owens' latest offenses). Sheridan quotes a great line -- that ESPN has become "Al-Jazeera for spoiled athletes."

We the media -- especially the sports press -- fawn over the players, cozy up to them, demand that they stay on script and dutifully provide their sound bites, while always goading them to make a gaffe, start a fight or commit a newsworthy blooper. And when they do -- they tear them down, demanding contrition and condemnation.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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