Terrell Owens in the Valley

I highly recommend this bit of long-form on TO by Michael J Mooney:


He spends large portions of the game looking bored on the sideline. He's on the field for most offensive plays, but the passing game struggles. The Nebraska players are extra rough with him, a little slow to get off him in a pile. Both teams score regularly, though, which drags the game out. It's already 45-34 at halftime. As the night stretches on, he looks miserable. The Wranglers eventually win, 86-57. 

Owens has three catches for 58 yards and two of the team's 12 touchdowns. After the game, fans are invited onto the field to meet the players. They're told to wait next to a table if they'd like an autograph from the most famous player to ever attempt indoor football. Eventually, after more than 100 people have lined up, he arrives. He's freshly showered, in jeans, a tie, and sunglasses, even though he's indoors and it's nearing midnight. He sits down and the line works its way past him. 

Fans are told that he'll only sign one item per person. And no, he won't pose for photos. (Plenty still try, and he begrudgingly obliges, though he sneers at the men in yellow shirts working security.) Signature after signature, he looks sullen. He looks like he'd rather be anywhere else in the world. 

His new teammates, however, are smiling and laughing. Each player happily poses with anyone who asks. "Oh, that one's blurry," they say. "Let's do another." Most of these men are just glad they're still playing football, even if it's for the Allen Wranglers. They make $225 a game. A lot of them work day jobs in security or on construction crews. They know this may be their last chance to put on shoulder pads and sign autographs.

I think what surprises me most about Owens is his surprise that no franchise is interested in him. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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