'Boys Brotherhood, Inside And Outside

IRVING, Texas -- Let's play a guessing game! Terrell Owens had a close friend who is a professional athlete. I'll give you 100 guesses – no, I'll give you 1,000 guesses! – and you still won't get it.

In fact, I'll give you 100 guesses as to what sport T.O.'s professional-athlete buddy plays, and you might not even get that.

Forgive me for being sappy. Or maybe you are like me, and you are fascinated by the friendships inside and outside your favorite team. Example of "inside-the-team'' brotherhood: After their Thursday a.m. workout this week, DeMarcus Ware, Greg Ellis and Brady James piled into the car and scooted over to Champps, the local sports hangout, for a leisurely lunch.

I like that kind of stuff.

As for "outside-the-team'' brotherhood?

The New York Times this week wrote a column that featured a photo of Terrell (the huge sunglasses cannot hide T.O.'s smile, or any other part of his identity) attending the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida. That strikes us as mildly unusual – Terrell and tennis? --- but it also strikes me as pretty cool.

Cooler still: Owens was at the tournament to watch his buddy, the professional tennis star Andy Roddick.

The columnist, William Rhoden, writes a piece that seems quite intent on painting a positive picture of the Cowboys' standout receiver. Rhoden writes that T.O. is from "the rough-and-tumble world of pro football'' while Roddick is from the "genteel'' sport of tennis. He calls the friendship "incongruent.'' (What is this, the New York Times sports section or the New York Times Puzzle?)

He quotes Roddick on the subject of Owens: "I wish a lot of the public saw what I saw. He's a pretty friendly guy, he'll meet people -- friends of mine -- who he doesn't really even know, and he's nothing but nice and sweet to them. I wish the public saw a little bit more of that side of him."

And good for the author.

I'm not suggesting that Terrell Owens hasn't has his "friendly,'' "nice'' and "sweet'' moments in his pre-Cowboys past; he's human like the rest of us, he's complex like the rest of us, and his ups and downs have occurred in front of cameras and millions of people.

T.O. being interviewed by the New York Times while playing cards with Andy Roddick before a pro tennis match? Complex!

But I will suggest that this T.O. – attending women's softball games and winning the MVP award in celebrity basketball games and sitting attentively at a pro tennis match – is a reformed T.O. Reformed in the sense that he's more comfortable with himself, reformed in the sense that he's more comfortable with us knowing him.

Here's T.O. on his friendship with Roddick, which emerged as a result of them sharing a Texas-based trainer: "He keeps up with me, I try to keep up with him. Since that time we've kept in touch with each other and followed each other's careers."

We also follow T.O.'s career. And isn't this a most refreshing chapter of it?

Michael Irvin counsels him to be less judgmental of "The Man.''

Wade Phillips rolls into town and pronounces "the player's'' name and allows him to be a de facto team captain.

Jerry Jones expresses complete faith in him, financially and otherwise.

Owens has a brilliant 2007 season, helping the Cowboys to the same, both of which helped him get named by an ESPN study as one of the top 10 receivers of all time.

He feels bad for having jokingly insulted Romessica, and makes up for it by buying the lovebirds a vacation.

Following a playoff loss to the Giants in which Romo didn't play well, he tearfully stands up for his quarterback.

And this offseason: No QB bashing, no non-suicide attempts, no front-yard sit-ups, no contract disputes, no outrageous boasts. No drama – except for the inviting scent of the popcorn being readied for 2008.

Who would've guessed?

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