Wednesday, January 25, 2012

(MUST BE) THE MONEY: Terrell Owens is the subject of this GQ profile of a football player with a usual set of problems: despite a relatively unflashy life, he's out of work and out of money. Now it's his fault -- bad personal decisions, bad family decisions. But I'm sympathetic to these guys -- even TO. They never learned to handle a dollar because they never had one in the first place. But this is, for many of them, all of the money they will ever make and given they'd never seen how fast a family can use up $60K or $100K, $3 or $4M a year must seem inexhaustible. $80M in lifetime earnings. And it's gone.


  1. He is as big of a clubhouse cancer as American professional sports has ever seen. I have no sympathy for him, only for his children who are growing up without the parenting and resources he should be providing.

  2. isaac_spaceman11:23 AM

    I don't believe in clubhouse cancers.  And with McNabb -- in retrospect, he was right, right?

  3. Right when, in the middle of the season, he told the media he thought the team would be better off with Brett Favre at QB?  Right to criticize his QB for allegedly being "tired" at the end of the Super Bowl?  And he was disruptive as hell during training camps; wouldn't speak to Reid directly, only his positional coach.

    Go back to the 2005 arbitrator's decision.  Here's one section:

    <span>Owens reported to camp but, among other things, refused to speak with team personnel. On or around the opening of training camp in August, at Mr. Rosenhaus' suggestion, Coach Reid, Owens and Rosenhaus set up a meeting to attempt to clear the air. Mr. Owens, however, declined to shake the Coach's hand and rejected continuing efforts during that meeting to set matters straight. Thereafter, Coach Reid testifies, the Player declined to speak to him and Reid resorted to communicating with Owens through the Player's position coach. Owens also declined to talk to various Eagles personnel, including the Offensive Coordinator, Brad Childress. Childress testifies that, as contrasted with the first year of their relationship, Owens was incommunicative. From the first time they met in training camp that second year, he says, he was met "with nothing, no response, just kind of a straight-ahead stare." Childress continued to greet the Player for some seven or eight nights until Owens, at one point, said: "Why do you talk to me? I don't talk to you. You don't talk to me. There's no reason for you to talk to me."</span>

    <p>Owens would interact with some teammates but not others, including Donovan McNabb, according to the record. His antics were affecting the team. There was, says Coach Reid, a lot of tension: "The Players felt it, the coaches felt it. I think on both sides of the ball, it was a different feeling. I had Players coming to me talking to me about the situation and it just wasn't real healthy. I tried to make that part work."

  4. isaac_spaceman12:40 PM

    Right about McNabb being tired, because McNabb was out of shape.  In retrospect, McNabb had stopped staying in shape during the off-season, but because we had heard so much about his off-season training when he was a younger QB, we discounted it.  Or I did, anyway.

    Anyway, the thing with locker-room chemistry:  you can think either that it is a significant cause of on-field performance or a significant effect of on-field performance.  Neither side will prove their case, though I tend to think that the best evidence is in teams where personnel doesn't change but both performance and outward descriptions of chemistry do. 

    Incidentally, the term "clubhouse cancer" was invented, I believe, by Lenny Wilkens in reference to Dennis Johnson.  DJ won an NBA title for Seattle (was Finals MVP; still Seattle's only pro sports title), then got traded away because of his ostensible effect on people in the locker room.  He then wound up in Boston, in another famously dysfunctional locker room, where he won another two NBA titles.  DJ may have been an unpleasant person to be around, but he got the job done. 

    And as for TO, he's a loudmouth who lashes out at people.  Probably also has some depression issues that can make others uncomfortable.  But NFL locker rooms welcome and embrace rapists, manslaughterers, drunk drivers, spousal abusers, philanderers, and the list goes on and on.  A guy who criticizes an out-of-shape QB?  Heaven forfend. 

  5. Paul Tabachneck12:40 PM

    Players gotta play, am I right, people?

    ....No, but that's a nightmare everyone in entertainment has: that the money, she comes, then the money, she goes, and you might not have that second outing.  It's one of the reasons for the "sophomore slump," that pressure.  

    Money is a cancer, in so many ways.  I hate the stuff.

  6. Becca1:14 PM

    Y'know, it's a weird thing. Am I the only one with friends like this guy? Friends who are making a shit ton of money right now, but spending it faster than it comes in, and will likely be broke the moment they stop making it, despite a good income? One of them came to me recently to ask how I was able to survive being unemployed for so long, because she thinks she'll be laid off soon. I told her to sit down and figure out how much money she needs to survive each month, and she came back with a figure of $7000! A month! No kids! No mortgage! I suggested she review what counts as a "need."

    Saving your money for the future is a life skill that should be taught in school. Kids who live the dream shouldn't be punished because they don't know how to live after the dream is over. Especially if they have people who depend on them.

  7. I think you're unfairly extrapolating between McNabb's fitness now versus where he was back then.  As for TO, what NFL locker rooms embrace in terms of someone's character relating to non-work events is different from what they want to deal with within the locker room.

  8. Watts1:54 PM

    I was just re-reading Neil Patrick Harris's "How to Survive in Hollywood" article from EW a while back
    (,,20532596,00.html) and this conversation reminds me of this anecdote:

    Mr. Steven Bochco is a very wise man. After a many-monthed nationwide search to find a precocious teenage doctor, he hired me. But I suppose he's wise for other reasons, too: Right when Doogie Howser, M.D. was beginning, he took my parents and me to a restaurant, sat us down, and said, ''A career is like surfing. You paddle out and paddle out and get wet and hit by these waves. When you finally get out where you're supposed to go, you have to sit on a surfboard for a long time, just waiting. If you're really lucky, you'll catch a wave, and it'll be the most amazing feeling. But the key is that that wave will inevitably crash to the sand. Then what you have to do is paddle back out and get hit by a bunch of waves again. But trust that in the long term there will always be waves to catch.'' To a young family from New Mexico, you can imagine our reaction: ''What the hell is surfing?'' But thinking back, it was a very impressive thing to hear as a kid and, as it turns out, absolutely accurate.

    The thing is, kid actors may get to catch more waves, but pro athletes?  They have to learn how to get to a whole other beach.

  9. isaac_spaceman2:01 PM

    You're not alone.  The lips say yes but the eyes say no way when I tell people that my theory is that people should spend the money they have, not the money they're going to have.  I guess a decade-plus of claptrap like "grow into your house" really took root.  Somebody recently told Spacewoman that she didn't want to regret not spending money now if she later has enough money to pay down the debts she's incurring.  What kind of logic is that? 

  10. isaac_spaceman2:02 PM

    "Trust that in the long term there will always be waves to catch"?  That is absolutely terrible financial advice. 

  11. And I think there's a difference between liking someone as a person and liking them as a teammate.  

    I don't think players like TO, management/coaches clearly tire of him quickly, but his teammates knew he'd come to work ready to go and bust his butt to win (I admittedly don't follow too closely but I actually haven't heard of many ex-teammates openly trash TO, his work ethic, etc.)

    Contrast that with a guy like Brandon Marshall.  Players seem to like him a lot as person (despite seemingly countless reasons not to), evidenced by the number of ex-Broncos who attended his wedding.  But local media here in Denver makes it clear that those same people were the happiest players in the world when B-Marsh was traded.  They knew he couldn't be counted on to come to camp in shape, to practice hard, to block on run plays, to run decoy routes, etc.  

    I really think, all other things being equal (such as talent, but not suggesting they actually were equal in talent), more players would prefer a teammate like TO, who they personally can't stand, than a guy like B-Marsh, who they love hanging out with but can't count on to help them win.

  12. I thought the same thing. Shouldn't you plan on no more waves, aka worst case scenario?

  13. Watts3:22 PM

    <span>I assumed it meant acting work, not necessarily money.  And it's a nice way to explain to a kid the sporadic nature of acting work.  You hope then at that point the parents step in and are, to extend the metaphor, socking away the money in a responsible way for when the ocean is more still.  
    My point is, for actors, yes, that approach can work. But athletes only get the one shot and have to figure out how they'll either store their money very, very wisely or find an entirely different revenue stream, most likely by exploiting some of the contacts and opportunities made during the height of their career.</span>

  14. Matt B3:44 PM

    I think he is just saying to realize you'll need to keep going out there and working and catching more waves - you can't surf forever on that first wave you catch.

  15. Becca4:18 PM

    Well, and, also, the money child actors earn is better protected, I'd guess, than the money pro athletes earn, since they're grownups.

  16. Tell Gary Coleman.

  17. girard316:25 PM

    I feel for TO in this respect, athletes have an odd place in our society. From the moment they realize they have a skill set far above normal kids, they are treated differently. At that point, they are at the mercy of the scruples of the adults in thier vicinity. Parents can be a help, or a hinderence, as can coaches, teachers and fellow students.

    Many of these athletes live in situations where adult guidance is sketchy at best. How many times on ESPN have you seen a profile of a young athlete who is literally saved by a coach or teacher who takes them into their home to give them a fighting chance? And even then you're left to question the coach's motives.

    THE BLIND SIDE made for a great movie, but you have to ask yourself if that family would have stepped in to help had Michael Oher been a scrawny kid with no discernible talents. The book definitely made you ask that question.

    My point is this: once athletes are put into the "getting groomed for the pros" machinery, people make sure they advance through challenges the rest of us have to learn through trial and error. Many of them realize this and adjust themselves accordingly, but some do not. They are the ones left high and dry with no life skills like TO.

  18. Becca6:33 PM

    That isn't logic. That's permission to spend. And also, crazy. What happens when the money isn't there? Sometimes, you can't have nice things.

  19. spacewoman6:39 PM

    "Sometimes, you can't have nice things" should be made into a poster and placed in every high school classroom in America.  If you've earned the money to buy a nice thing, by all means, go nuts, but until then, make yourself a dream book or something.

  20. Becca8:01 PM

    I once worked on a show that featured a couple child actors, so I asked about that. I was told by the accountants that the current laws were put into place BECAUSE of the problems Gary Coleman had with his parents. I have no idea if that's true, but it's nice to think that drama helped someone.

  21. kenedy jane9:51 PM

    I have a friend who used to work for an investment firm that only worked with athletes.  They literally taught them about money - something most of his clients had no experience with.  He saw time and time again just what you reference, girard31- no life skills without someone holding their hands. 

    I also had the opportunity to work in the same organization with someone who was a football star at the University of Texas and went on to play professional football for several years.  He was never a huge star in the NFL but certainly made some real money.  By the time I met him, probably less than 10 years after his career ended, he was loading trucks in a warehouse at my company for not much more than minimum wage. He was very open about the way he and his family had blown through his money.  And unfortunately, he was probably not going to get a much better job.  On his resume he had misspelled the name of one of the professional teams he had played for...  Only in Austin with his UT background would this guy have any options at all. 

  22. The NFL cares about this issue a great deal and tries to do what it can (mandating seminars and so forth for rookies), but it can't do much. Largely because the NFLPA guards issue like this for itself, the League is pretty restricted from preaching about it. I think it's a huge failing of the NFLPA that it doesn't do a much much better job of teaching and coaching its members in the area of their financial health. A few former coaches have done some things (I'm pretty sure Joe Gibbs put together a presentation and seminar which he took around to a bunch of teams a while back),  but not nearly enough.

  23. Watts3:34 PM

    Sharks everywhere:

  24. BIANCA2:04 PM

    <p><span><span><span>I take issue with Adam’s overwhelming sympathy for TO’s children. As he admits in the article these are women he had 1 night stands with or who were simply willing sex partners. They made a decision to have unprotected sex o if not to not make arrangements to deal with the consequences of a broken condom (i.e. the morning after pill) </span></span></span>
    </p><p><span><span> </span></span>
    </p><p><span><span><span>What these women saw was the chance to be taken care of for the rest of their life by an athlete by having his baby. </span></span></span>
    </p><p><span><span> </span></span>
    </p><p><span><span><span>But the responsibility to parent and to provide falls on their shoulders. So instead of taking the man to court, why not get out there and get a job.</span></span></span>
    </p><p><span><span> </span></span>
    </p><p><span><span><span>TO has a responsibility to pay his portion of child support – this I absolutely agree with. But those women have their own responsibility and suing a man who is unemployed is not them being responsible parents. </span></span></span>
    </p><p><span><span><span>TO was taken advantage of by many people. It won't be the last professional athelte sob story but its still sad. </span></span></span></p>

  25. Your comment is a total non-sequitur.  You say you take issue with Adam's expression of sympathy for the children, but the rest of your comment is about the children's mothers, for whom Adam expressed no sympathy at all.