My cell phone awoke from its weekend slumber shortly after 6 p.m. on Saturday. No need to wonder why. I’d already heard the news. Clearly this was one of those rare occasions where people actually wanted my opinion.
The news that wide receiver Terrell Owens would join the Buffalo Bills shocked me as much as any Bills fan. It’s the marriage between an organization known for preaching “character” and the most notorious character in the NFL. “Pathetic” was eventually the term I arrived at.
Phone calls and text messages regarding the Bills are not new to me. Most frequently they’re received after a game, arriving from friends and family checking to make sure I hadn’t intentionally hurt myself. It’s become somewhat of a tradition since “wide right” in 1991 (18 years ago—good Lord!). Rooting for the Bills has been a passion of mine since my youth.
Sadly, success for the Bills has become a distant memory. No season proved more crushing than the most recent—a fast start giving way to an improbable collapse, even for Buffalo. And in the end, nobody is held accountable. Nobody! That’s not a prescription for future success in my book.
To say that I’m not a T.O. fan is an understatement. A talented athlete? Yes. But an example of “character” in sports? Far from it. I’m reminded of some years ago when I gave some good natured grief to a student from Philadelphia who walked into my class one day wearing a T.O. jersey (this dating back to Owens’ years with the Eagles). “Come on, Tim! Really?” He smiled at me and shrugged, as to suggest, “What do you want from me? They’re my team.” (Don’t tell me you’re not enjoying this a little bit, Tim.)
So now, with 24 hours to deliberate on “the news,” I struggle to reconcile my feelings. I still find it pathetic that the current state of the Bills franchise—“irrelevant” as some have correctly suggested—has come to this. But, since I tend to use this forum to evaluate situations from a public relations standpoint, I have to consider the merits.
Owens is a train wreck. Maybe that’s the reason America can’t seem to get enough of him. So as the T.O. circus arrives in western New York, beginning at training camp here in Rochester this July, the national sports media will follow. Conversation about the Bills will reach a level not seen since the Doug Flutie era of the late 90s. Also, the Bills are nearly certain to appear in more primetime games this season, all because of Owens presence on the team. And when T.O. does that nauseating wink at the camera during the open to NFL programming, he’ll be doing it in a Bills uniform. For better or worse, directly or indirectly, people will be talking about the Bills again. In this case, there may be no such thing as bad publicity.
Still, I’m sad—sad that it’s come to this. Will T.O. improve the Bills’ chances of making the playoffs after a nine year absence, I doubt it. Will I rethinking my decision to not renew my season tickets? Not likely. But will I finally stop wasting fall weekends rooting for this team. I can’t.
I’ll still find my way to Orchard Park for a few games this season and spend my remaining Sundays in front of the TV. What do you want from me? They’re my team.