No Harm, No Foul

IRVING, Tex. -- ESPN's Bob Ley called it "phantasmagoric extrapolation.'' But I'll summarize Terrell Owens' odd mid-week in a manner the erstwhile basketball star (and the rest of us) can understand: "No harm, no foul.''

In the wake of a Tuesday night incident that required a 911 call, the attention of the Dallas Fire and Rescue Department, the Dallas Police Department and a 15-hour stay at Baylor Medical Center, T.O. met his public at Valley Ranch on Wednesday. He grinned widely during the questioning, thanking God for surviving what he insists was an adverse reaction to medicine, and stated vehemently that he is not suicidal or even depressed.

"There was no suicide attempt," Owens said, apologizing for causing a "distraction'' for the Cowboys. ""I'm not depressed by anything ... I'm very happy to be here."

And, no doubt, happy to be alive.

Owens' cheery face clashes violently with the picture painted of him by the medical experts and police officials who interacted with him following the 911 call to his Dallas condo. Still, it is conceivable that T.O.'s version of the story is true: He swallowed too many pain pills, maybe thinking some of them were vitamins and supplements. He became non-responsive and groggy, causing friend and publicist Kim Etheridge to place the emergency call. And then, when he was asked ny medical experts and police officials if the pill consumption was done with intent to harm himself, his incoherence allowed him to answer "yes.''

Assuming that all to be accurate, Terrell Owens served as his own best witness on Wednesday. Unfortunately, some of the other folks called to the stand did not handle themselves as well. Publicist Kim Etheredge, coach Bill Parcells, and the media itself positively wilted while attempted to carry their load in this story. Let's begin with Ms. Etheredge, who followed T.O. on the Valley Ranch witness stand and behaved as if she was a guest on MTV. Lil' Kim smacked her chewing gum, couldn't decipher the difference between the words "stature'' and "statue,'' and seemingly accused the attending firemen, policemen and doctors of "(taking) advantage of Terrell. Had this been someone else, this may not have happened.'' (It is notable that following that ill-advised remark, Owens later went BACK to the podium to speak again, this time to thank the attending firemen, policemen and doctors. He probably should've thanked Cowboys PR man Rich Dalrymple, who likely guided his face-saving return to the microphone.)

This was a fine opportunity for a professional speaker to neatly present the case for Terrell. Instead, Etheredge rumbled, bumbled and stumbled. Regarding the question of her Tuesday night testimony that she used her fingers to remove pills from his mouth, Lil' Kim answered -- and I quote directly -- "Um, no, you know, ah, again, Terrell was sitting at the table with me, and he was taking his supplements and when I asked him a question is when I didn't really get the response I was looking for so I went over to him. ... if pills had fallen. ... I have to tell you guys, it's been a really long night. ... I can't remember everything.''

Um. No. You know. Yikes.

While Lil' Kim was congratulating herself for saving T.O.'s life, referring to Terrell "coming home'' (to the condo), I kept wondering, "Does T.O.'s publicist LIVE with him?'' And when it was suggested that other pre-attack visitors that night included Owens' pastor and his doctor, I was thinking, "That's not exactly my 'Last Supper' of four dinner companions: 1) Terrell himself, 2) a doctor who didn't see this coming to Owens' body, 3) a pastor in case Owens was leaving this earth, and 4) a publicist with all the Juicy Fruit-chomping gravitas of Tempest Bledsoe.

Kim Etheredge was on Tuesday a loving friend, turned Wednesday into a crappy publicist. The buffoonery continued to the end, Lil' Kim Etheredge closing her remarks by blurting, "Terrell has 25 million reasons why he should be alive!"

Yes, dear. Even when somebody almost dies, it's all about his contractual details.

Make a note of this: Whenever you need somebody to stick her fingers in your mouth to pull something out, call Lil' Kim.

Whenever you need somebody to serve as your publicist, lose this girl's number. Now to Coach. He sees all. He hears all. He knows all. Remember, this is a man that warns new Cowboys that he "knows all the bartenders in town,'' his way of pulling a "Scared Straight'' with the 'Boys. Yet at 1:30 p.m., Dallas time, a full 17-plus hours after one of his players quite possibly almost DIED, Bill Parcells is acting out his exceedingly tired Sgt. Shultz routine.

"I'm just a coach,'' Parcells protested during his questioning. "I can't give you information I don't have. ... When I find out what the hell is going on, you'll know. Until then, I won't be interrogated for no reason."

I know some of you don't care about Parcells' chronic dishonesty, and how uncannily comfortable he is with falsehoods. But, Coach. ... how do you not have information about your star player's alleged suicide attempt? And if you're telling the truth, doesn't that reveal you to be an uncaring, incompetent boob? And just when were you planning to have "the player'' speak to you? From the grave?

And finally, to The Media. We are morons, God Bless Us Every One. So in over our depth! I monitored dozens of media outlets throughout the day, listening as radio stations suggested Owens could sue WFAA-TV for its original story (wrong), listening as a TV head announced the arrival of "agent Drew Rosenboss'' (close), listening as some clown referred to the center of the story as "Michael Owens'' (?) and most of all, watching ESPN twiddle its 24-hour thumbs.

Anchors Trey Wingo and Bob Ley were terrific; they re-set the story, kept it moving forward and attempted to avoid assumptions. (Just as we cautioned the media to do in our Wednesday a.m. column.) Unfortunately, ESPN -- and other electronic outlets -- had to fill their time with something. So there were TV hosts making fun of Jerry Jones' involvement in the story, there were radio shows grimly announcing local phone numbers for suicidal listeners, and there were interviews with virtually every writer who'd ever come in contact with Owens, every writer who'd ever attended a Cowboys game, maybe every writer who'd ever had a layover at DFW Airport.

Somewhere in the middle of this, um. ... "phantasmagoric extrapolation,'' Terrell Owens was finally asked if he felt he could play football against Tennessee on Sunday. "Yeah," Owens said.

A good answer. And a good question -- a football question -- that demonstrates the width and depth of expertise most of us in the media should be limited to.

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