Orlando Sentinel – Mar 21, 2006 – Jemele Hill – If you took a poll today, Sports Nation would overwhelmingly agree that Terrell Owens has as good of a chance of changing his personality as Ricky Williams has of passing up a bong sale.
But if you believe that, answer this:
What was your opinion of George O’ Leary three years ago?
Rasheed Wallace? Jason Giambi?
Just pointing out it’s possible to change your perception in sports under the right circumstances.
This new change of address for T.O. is going to do miracles for his disposition and Dallas’ playoff record.
In fact, the signing of Owens was not only a genius move by owner Jerry Jones, but the best of the NFL offseason.
You have a flamboyant, irritating, egotistical, immensely talented wide receiver paired with an owner and coach of the same ilk.
You have a quarterback who is confronted with his last chance to seriously compete for a Super Bowl.
And a storied franchise that has won just one playoff game since 1995.
Everybody involved has something to lose. That’s what makes this work.
“This was not done cavalierly,” Jones told reporters when Owens was introduced as a Cowboy on Saturday. “It was not done because we wanted to be on the front page of papers. It was done because we looked at it strictly from the standpoint of what Terrell can bring to the table.”
Believe it or not, stranger and more difficult career transformations than Owens’ have taken place.
How many of you thought O’Leary’s coaching career was over after he lost the Notre Dame job for fabricating parts of his resume?
Probably the same ones who voted O’Leary national coach of the year after he took UCF from a winless season to a bowl game in 2005.
Could anybody have guessed after his shenanigans in Portland that Wallace, thought to be the worst Tar Heel Dean Smith ever coached, would be an all-star and a NBA champion?
Or that Giambi would be the American League Comeback Player of the Year following an admission of steroid use to a grand jury and being ravaged by a strange intestinal parasite?
Only if you imagined Eddie Murphy would be a mainstay in children’s movies after he “helped” a transsexual prostitute in 1997.
Don’t tell me T.O can’t change in Dallas.
“Charles Barkley was sort of a naughty boy,” pointed out Nova Lanktree, the executive president of marketing services for CSMG International, the sports management firm that represents Donovan McNabb.
“He really did things that were bad and look at look at how he prevailed,” Lanktree said.
Barkley spat on an 8-year-old girl and body-slammed a man threw a plate-glass window right here in Orlando.
Now he’s the most popular NBA analyst on television.
But let me be clear: I don’t expect Owens to become this lovey-dovey person we’ve never seen before.
I don’t expect to see him snuggling with quarterback Drew Bledsoe in front of a warm fire, or giving Bill Parcells neck rubs after two-a-days.
Owens will continue to be self-centered, but he’ll be in control of himself and motivated. And when he’s that way, he’s the most dangerous weapon a NFL team could have.
Owens wants to prove us all wrong. He wants to show us he’s still the best receiver in the league despite the drama of the last two years. Just like he wanted to show everybody he could come back from a broken leg and dominate in the Super Bowl.
Here’s a promise: A peeved Owens will deliver his sixth 1,000-yard receiving season in seven years in 2006.
“I say, `Show me,’ ” said Palm Beach-based sports psychologist John Murray. “You’ve shown me your skills. Show me you can be a team player. That’s the challenge I’d put to him.”
If you still believe Owens is a bad idea for the Cowboys or any other team, just look at Ron Artest in Sacramento.
Before T.O., Artest reigned as the most vilified athlete in sports because he impersonated Jet Li to a couple of Pistons fans.
Since the Pacers traded Artest in late January, the Sacramento Kings have improved their chances for making the playoffs, and they haven’t missed the postseason since 1998. With Artest, the Kings are 15-9 and a team people fear playing in the NBA playoffs.
It just shows a different zip code can change anybody. Even T.O.
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.