I miss Terrell Owens.
There, I said it. Not proud of it, for there was a time when I considered him perhaps the most clueless and deplorably self-absorbed football player in history, but it's inescapably true.
More specifically, I miss the T.O. brand of scandal.
Back in the good old days, Owens reaching for a Sharpie was a big damn deal. So were his various holdouts.
And his sprint to the hallowed star in the middle of the field at old Cowboys Stadium.
And his impromptu pushups in a random driveway.
And his ridiculous, Drew Rosenhaus-enhanced news conferences.
And his defiant throwing of Donovan McNabb and pretty much all things Philadelphia Eagles under the proverbial bus.
And his tearful expressions of love for Tony Romo.
And, of course, his publicist denying he tried to off himself by saying he had 25 million reasons not to.
Make no mistake about it: T.O. was trouble with a capital T, everywhere he went.
Yet in retrospect, and with the crystalline benefit of hindsight, for all his trouble T.O. was harmless. With a lower-case h.
In retrospect, the garden-variety T.O. scandal looks like nothing more than a little look-at-me fun, more or less ushering in — or perhaps just perpetuating — an era in which we expect hyperproductive wideouts to bring a little diva drama to the party.
The garden-variety NFL scandal these days is infinitely darker, more sinister and, unlike pretty much all T.O. scandals, it involves the conviction or allegation of breaking of laws.
Ray Rice. Ray McDonald. Mike Vick. Aldon Smith. Ben Roethlisberger. Aaron Hernandez. Adrian Peterson. Daryl Washington. Jonathan Dwyer.
And coming soon: The proof we don't really need to know that teams have been illegally dispensing controlled substances to the players it chews up and spits out on the way the way the boys on the corner in “The Wire” dispensed rocks to the addicts they'd exploit.
Then we have what now pass for minor scandals, ones that don't involve the breaking of actual laws but still in clear violation of the laws of common decency, of being a perspective-conscious human being: Michael Crabtree and Ahmad Brooks bitching about their roles in or after wins. Robert Griffin III taking T.O.'s levels of selfishness to extreme levels in Washington. Daniel Snyder not giving a rat's ass about the feeling of Native Americans. Roger Goodell likely flat-out lying about his level of knowledge in the Rice investigation.
And still, as evidenced by the off-the-charts TV ratings that bring off-the-charts money into a supremely violent business already under fire for failing to take care of its employees, both active and retired, the NFL is more popular than ever.
More popular than baseball, where the biggest recent scandals have involved performance-enhancing drugs. Which we all know are used rampantly in the NFL.
Remember when we used to mock the NFL as the “No Fun League” because it fined folks like the “Fun Bunch” and T.O. and Chad Johnson for over-the-top celebrations? Now the nickname applies because it really isn't much fun at all, seeing these lawless louts cheered at every turn.
“I love me some me!” T.O. used to yell. “I LOVE me summa me!!!”
You know what? I used to hate that crap. Now? I miss me summa him.