T.O.: My Hero

Recently Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens claimed he was misquoted in his new autobiography, ‘T.O.’ The controversy surrounded the phrase “nothing short of heroic,” which was used in the book to describe T.O.‘s comeback from injury before the 2005 Superbowl. T.O. said that he would not have used that phrase, and that his co-author (who is also his agent’s brother) Jason Rosenhaus must have written that hyperbolic nonsense (a claim T.O. later qualified and re-qualified).

But let’s not judge the book (which is excerpted on AOL) by one phrase. ‘T.O.’ is a compelling little tale that jumps quickly from anecdote to jeremiad and back again. Owens-Rosenhaus mixes colorful boasting, paranoid comedy, and football gossip in a conversational cocktail. First, sounding a bit like George Bush, he (or they) argue(s) convincingly against misleading filters like ghost writers and journalists. An agent is all you need to communicate one-on-one with the people:

“These are my words, straight from me to you. My critics will be negative and try to tell you that I just lent my name to someone else’s work, but don’t be fooled. When they criticize me for telling you about the wild roller-coaster ride, the ups and downs, it won’t mean a thing because this is my story and no one can tell you different. This was the only way I could communicate with you, one on one, without anyone else’s interference. That was why, instead of a well-known writer, I wanted one of my agents, Jason Rosenhaus, to coauthor this book, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with someone who wanted to put their own take on things.”

When he’s not telling us how honest he and his agents are or how famous writers get everything wrong, T.O. has a talent for the self-pitying grotesque:

“One afternoon while I was in high school, I was riding home on a school bus after a track event. I made the mistake of falling asleep on the bus. It was just my luck that the biggest and meanest kid in school was on that bus, too. I was physically exhausted and passed out in a deep sleep. I was breathing through my mouth and it was open as I slept. The jerk came over and hocked up a big wad from his throat and nasal passages. He dropped that huge, disgusting gob of spit right into my mouth.

“I slept right through the whole thing while everybody laughed at me. I didn’t find out about it until later. Can you imagine the shame, the humiliation I felt when I went home and told my family?… I had been a loner before that happened, and became even more isolated after.”

How does T.O. get over the “nasal passages” shame?

“I spent my days staring out the window, alone with my thoughts. After sitting in my room long enough, the answer to all my problems came to me. I realized it was time to get acquainted with my high-school gym.”

Soon after that epiphanic moment, Owens jumps forward to his current tormenters. His rhetorical excess is remarkable:

“An arbitrator ruled that it was appropriate that I be fined approximately eight hundred thousand dollars for my ‘disruptive’ behavior. But what did I do? Did I murder someone? Did I rape someone? Did I hit someone with my car? Did I get arrested for a DUI? Did I get arrested for drugs? Did I use steroids? Did I beat on my wife? Did I abuse an animal? Did I hold out of training camp or any preseason games? Did I cheat? Did I hurt another player with a cheap shot? Did I quit on my team? Did I give a losing effort in the Super Bowl? Did I make racist or prejudiced comments? Did I use profanity? Did I lie? No. If I had, that would be okay. The NFL, the fans, and the media would forgive that. What no one forgives — is reality. The truth hurts. I spoke the truth. I bucked the system, said what I wanted to say, and took on the NFL. That was my crime. For that, the bully came after me harder than anyone before.”

Alright, already. You’re a hero.

Keep abreast of T.O.‘s movements on the 700 Level.

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