Remember the old Warner Bros. cartoons featuring protagonist Bugs Bunny being pursued by an antagonist (Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote, Yosemite Sam)? And somehow Bugs leads the villain into a darkened storage shed labeled "TNT''? And Elmer/Wile/Sam, in order to illuminate the shed, light themselves a fateful match?
Modernize the scene. I play Bugs. Old friend Michael Irvin plays Elmer/Wile/Sam. And the dynamite and the match? That's the Philadelphia Eagles and the white-hot Terrell Owens.
"I'm not supporting a position, I'm stating fact: The team can back out anytime it wants to, so why shouldn't T.O. try to beat them to the punch?'' the former Cowboys great tells The Ranch Report. "Business must be done. If it's a 'contract,' then the dictionary says it should be 'a binding agreement between two parties.' But for the teams, nothing is binding. It's only binding for the player, I guess.''
It confounds me to hear Irvin align himself with T.O. on this issue.
During his playing career, Michael was famous for forging an allegiance with his employer, famous for his unflagging loyalty to team, famous for putting his desire to be on the field ahead of all else.
So it was never "just a business'' when Irvin was a player. But now that he's a born-again Christian, a potential Hall-of-Famer and a keen observer of the sport as an ESPN commentator, it's "just a business''?
Irvin tries to explain:
"I woudn't do it (in his playing days) because of our situation (as a perennial Super Bowl contender),'' Irvin says. "I gave up the chance to make more because of our situation. I never said one bad word when Emmitt was in his contract dispute. One thing I always told our team: We never talk about each others' money. That was business then, like now, and business has to be done.''
To me, the match has just ignited the dynamite. And in this argument, Irvin is getting blown to smithereens.
How, I tell Michael, is the Eagles' present situation as a contender different from those Cowboys' situation? How, I tell Michael, is business being done when the two parties did indeed have an agreement -- an agreement that allowed Owens to pocket $9.6 mil before ever playing a down, in exchange for the Eagles being able to cut him some day? How, I tell Michael, can a player in good conscience approach a club and promise to keep his 49ers misbehavior in the past and be a good soldier, only to turn "bad soldier'' just 12 months later?
"Let me educate you, let me go deep with you: Because these things are by nature one-year contracts, a series of one-year contracts, not one seven-year deal,'' Irvin says. "It's a new contract every year. ... And you can get rid of me after one year. So why can't I get rid of you?''
Really? A series of one-year contracts that, using Elmer Irvin's logic, can be reasonably renegotiated every year? Then why not renegotiate after every month, Michael? Heck, why not renegotiate after every game?
Hey, I got it: Terrell Owens has his greatest moment of leverage after the very first play of a game, when he catches a 14-yard out route. So why not call a timeout following the catch, pull a cell phone out of his sock, and phone up to Jeff Lurie insisting that he refuses to line up for the game's second play unless he's the recipient of a fresh new upgraded contract?
My point to Irvin (a point, by the way, I've been trying to shove down his throat for 15 years): SOMEBODY has to be the boss. If the owner invests $700 mil or so, shouldn't he get to be in charge? And if he writes $9.6 mil in upfront checks for an "employee,'' isn't that enough to buy some "office-place morale''?
Replies Yosemite Mike: "You say Jeff Lurie is the boss of the Philadelphia Eagles, and that T.O. is his employee? Fine. But T.O. is the boss of Terrell Owens Enterprises. Shouldn't he run his business, T.O. Enterprises, like a business, in his own best interests? In business, when I'm down, you put pressure on me. So when I'm up, why shouldn't I put pressure on you?''
It's an interesting concept, I admit: That Terrell Owens isn't a employee of the Eagles, that a player isn't an employee of a team, but that instead they are somehow individual satellite companies in partnership.
"I'm winning this argument!'' insists Wile E. Irvin. "Tell me why T.O. shouldn't try to take all he can take?''
Just like in the cartoons, a light bulb pops on above my head. "Why shouldn't T.O. try to take all he can take?'' Hmmm.
The debate ends. Irvin's smiling, thinking he conquered me. But I'm smiling, too. Because I know one of the reasons Irvin's Cowboys stayed atop their NFL is because they stayed together. And now, one of the reasons Owens' Eagles might topple from the heights of the NFL is because they cannot.
So keep it up, T.O. Go home and play with your Sharpie. Fight for what's "yours.'' And we'll seek cover as we sense the heat from the Philadelphia dynamite shed you're causing to implode.
Michael Irvin Sounds Off on T.O.
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