Only a Matter of Time

Terrell Owens has made a dazzling first impression in Buffalo. Loads of fans greeted him at the airport and he's catching everything thrown his way. But it's early. Eventually, T.O.'s dark side will surface and it won't be pretty, says BFR's Tyler Dunne...

Terrell Owens might as well of strolled in on a white stallion, cured the waterfront fiasco, unified Buffalo city schools, wiped out poverty and added a new chicken-wing flavor to the Anchor Bar.

When Mayor Byron Brown handed T.O. the key to city Monday, fans in San Francisco, Dallas and Philadelphia coiled in laughter. We're watching that epic scene in Mars Attacks right before our eyes. Through a translator, the aliens say they come in peace. Understanding, open-mindedness and love flows at psychedelic level even though the aliens had just attacked the states.

A hippie releases a dove into the sky and the big-brained alien ambassador guns it down. All hell breaks loose (For a laugh, fast forward to 6:20).

Nobody knows precisely when T.O. will shoot down that dove, but he will eventually. It's a scientific certainty. Fourteen franchise-killing years have established this blueprint. With a one-year contract, the Bills are hoping to dodge the temper tantrums. Sixteen games of alien-loving naivety. But don't count on peace and traquillity.

T.O. amnesia spreads like swine flu every time he joins a new team. The pipe dreams of touchdowns and popcorn create artificial excitement that only delays the harsh reality. Did those mobs of Bills fans at the airport forget that Owens allegedly tried to commit suicide, got into a physical fight with Eagles assistant coach Hugh Douglas, casually called Jeff Garcia gay, hawked a loogie in DeAngelo Hall's face, called the Philadelphia Eagles organization classless for not recognizing his 100th career touchdown, publicly demeaned Donovan McNabb as if he were an illegal immigrant and whined that he was ignored during a game in which 18 passes were thrown his way?

No, of course people didn't forget. They're just suppressing the obvious, hoping and praying that for one year T.O. will be a choir boy. It's OK, they say. As if a playoff-less decade justifies signing a team obliterator. The front office took major steps forward in the NFL Draft by picking two gritty interior linemen, a dangerous pass rusher and a ballhawk defensive back. That is how you build a team. Russ Brandon's front office did a sensational job this April by doing something Tom Donahoe and Marv Levy never attempted — building from within.

But signing T.O. is a one-night stand. Not very forward-thinking, not very smart.

Because over the years, Terrell Owens has morphed into a caricature of himself, some superhuman cartoon that can't go through one comic strip without drama. Even artsy, nose-in-a-book, anti-jocks locked in complete seclusion know that T.O. is a fungus. Yet still, a small city's worth of fans greet the biggest egomaniac to ever play at the airport with open arms.

Terrell Owens was fined $7,500 for mocking the New England Patriots' spying scandal.
Getty Images

Trust me, I'd love for Owens to be the healthy squirt of Febreeze the Bengals, errr, Bills need right now. As players get handcuffed, tasered, and carry guns on a weekly basis, Owens could be the fun-loving clown this arrest-ridden franchise needs. His ability on the field is unworldly. That 40-yard masterpiece over Terrence McGee at Monday's practice is enough proof that Owens' play has not sharply declined as detractors claim. Sure he'll drop some gimmies, but count Owens is not fading like Marvin Harrison. Still good for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Look across the AFC East's subpar pass defenses: New England (11th ranked pass defense was overhauled), Miami Dolphins (25th) and New York Jets (29th). The Owens-Evans-Reed trio has Reed-Lofton-Beebe written all over it. For once, the Bills are nationally relevant.

But, over time, it won't be for the right reasons. This story never has a happy ending. You think Owens will stay quiet and businesslike with those VH1 cameras rolling? We've seen how trashy and artificial those "reality" shows get. All this will be is a football version of Bret Michael's Rock of Love. Owens is here to put on a show. Eventually, this aw-shucks act T.O. is fronting will shed. He knows what sells — me-first self-absorption. Not quiet playbook absorption.

Owens has played on title-contending teams his entire career. Buffalo is not nearly as talented as Dallas, Philadelphia and San Francisco were when Owens went virtually schizophrenic. If the going gets tough — say the Bills start 1-3 — chances are T.O. will pull a hamstring, wear a Tour de France jersey like he did in Dallas and pedal away on a stationary bike. Or something close to it. His behavior is as unpredictable as a 4-year-old in Wegmans.

Terrell Owens has butted heads with Tony Romo, Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia.
Getty Images

As wild as Buffalo's fan base is right now, one league source told me immediately after the signing that "Terrell Owens is the one player that can completely turn off a fan base." It's a good point. As supportive as Bills fans have been toward Owens, it's a guarantee that Mount T.O. will erupt. It's a seasonal volcano. Rarely does the lava boil over in May OTAs. Come September, it'll explode any given Sunday and this meat-and-potatoes fan base will get irritated. Maybe Owens will revert to jawing in Dick Jauron's ear like a hyena. Steve Mariucci and Andy Reid suffered through plenty of that. Or maybe, he'll conjure conspiracy theories as he did last season by claiming Tony Romo and Jason Witten were out to get him. Oh yes, paranoia runs rampant in T.O.'s world.

But above all, he must be in the midst of controversy. He needs it. He's addicted to it. He thrives off of it. He needs to stir up trouble like a gossipy, text-happy teenager. Anything to contrary is like trying to take the thug out of Tupac, the sarcasm out of Keith Olbermann or the trashiness out of Paris Hilton. An impossible task. Owens is the perpetually selfish narcissist that ignores teammates sprinting over to congratulate him for a touchdown because he must perform his premeditated celebration.

Don't buy this renaissance. Don't be naïve. If Terrell Owens has sincerely turned a new leaf here in Buffalo, he'd send the VH1 cameras home, shut up and catch passes from Trent Edwards.

Instead, this is yet another rerun. When Byron Brown's term expires — after Mount T.O. has effectively drowned the city — maybe cast your vote for someone who doesn't liberally hand out keys to the city to egomaniacs.

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