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Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Terrell Owens and Jumping to Conclusions
As you know, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens may have attempted to commit suicide last night by overdosing on the painkillers that he was using for his hand injury. Thankfully, Owens is okay physically, as he checked out of the hospital earlier this morning. He will address the media later this afternoon. It should be noted that while an internal police report that was somehow leaked to the media found that Owens did try to committ suicide, both Michael Smith and Michael Irvin of ESPN report that Owens is adamantly denying that he attempted to commit suicide. Owens asserts that he suffered an adverse reaction to the medicine.
Without knowing more confirmed facts, it's impossible to know what happened or why whatever happened happened. We might never know. But interestingly, many media and fans have immediately accepted the storyline that Owens tried to commit suicide, and they have also put on their amateur psychologist and psychiatrist hats to offer pseudo-clinical explanations.
Some believe that Owens is simply a bad guy who does destructive things, and that this is just his latest ploy for publicity. This has been the reaction of many message boards and talk radio discussions.
Others view the apparent suicide as a sad chapter in the life of someone who has made a lot of bad decisions. For instance, C.W. Nevius of the San Francisco Chronicle blames Owens for "blowing" his career:
"There are plenty of kids from tiny towns and humble backgrounds who hit the big time and manage just fine. He had a miracle chance and he blew it."Still others take a more sympathetic view and speculate that Owens' self-centeredness reflects that he has been masking other problems that are not his fault. For instance, MSNBC's Mike Celizic posits that Owens' problems can be explained by his childhood:
"Whatever Owens’ problems are, they go way back to his childhood, when he was raised by a strict grandmother who didn’t allow him to leave the house except to go to school and church."But perhaps the best reaction is the least interesting one: we have no idea what happened and no one can honestly say that they saw "this"--whatever "this" really is-- coming. Interestingly, that is the view that trained psychologists seem to be endorsing. For instance, ESPN interviewed sports psychologist Dr. Joel Fish who finds that nothing in Owens' past indicated signs of potential suicide. Dr. Fish also cautions against jumping to conclusions because a small change in the facts could make what happened look much more like an inadvertent overdose than a suicide attempt.
I wonder what the reaction would be if a different player had experienced the exact same incident? We'll hopefully never know, but if you substitute Tom Brady or Donovan McNab for Terrell Owens, I have a feeling people would be a lot more patient in waiting for the facts to come out before drawing conclusions on what happened and why whatever happened happened. I also wonder if the "internal police report" concluding that Owens tried to commit suicide would have been leaked if the player had been someone else.