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Is TO next? Can the media distinguish one black “sports villain” from another?

Yesterday, the Dallas Cowboys released the controversial and oft-suspended cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones after one season with the club. Jones was a dud on the field this year and incurred another suspension mid-season. The Cowboys’ stated reason for releasing Jones, however, was the recent surfacing of allegations that Jones may have contracted a shooting in 2007, though the case, while open, is not currently being investigated (I have my doubts about whether, had Pacman just had a big season, the Cowboys would have made this move). As is inevitably the case when there is controversy in Cowboys’ land, you can be sure Terrell Owens’ name can’t be far from the headlines. ESPN’s Matt Mosley argued yesterday that Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones should dump Owens as soon as possible now that he’s gotten rid of his Pacman headache.

There are reasons why Owens might be worth cutting. He’s 35 years old and has been in the league for thirteen years. He’s a physical and fearless player and his years in the NFL have, inevitably, taken a toll on his body, though he remains in great physical condition. His performance has slipped – he’s still a dangerous playmaker, but not the consistently devastating game-breaker he was a few years ago. Drops have been a problem for him in recent seasons. All of which might make it not worth paying the $9 million or so dollars the Cowboys would owe him for next season. These are not, however, the things that people usually talk about when they talk about T.O. Mosley argued that Owens was “busy dividing” the Cowboys’ locker-room, though such claims are hard to pin down. In general, T.O. has become a poster child for all of the things that mainstream sports media hate about the “modern” athlete. But here’s the thing: T.O.s never really done anything. He hasn’t broken any laws. He hasn’t engaged in any significant on-field misconduct. He’s done his share of over-the-top celebrations after touchdowns, he’s had his share of squabbles with teammates and in September 2006, he was at the center of a media feeding frenzy akin to a presidential assassination attempt after he apparently over-dosed on sleeping pills. But, really, where’s the beef that would justify the endless stream of inane commentary about the hated Owens?

Three weeks ago, MODI at Sports On My Mind (SOMM) penned a very sharp parody of the famous Nathan Jessup speech from A Few Good Men, as if given by Pacman. But I would ask, as you read it, to substitute T.O for Pacman as the imaginary speaker. The noteworthy fact is that the effect is still the same. Pacman’s real problems with the law and the over-hyped trivialities that comprise the bill of complaint against Owens are one and the same in the world of what SOMM’s Dwil calls Big Box Sports Media. One demonized black athlete is as good as another, no matter how disparate the transgressions. Just ask OJ Mayo.

In any event, here’s MODI’s Black athlete/Jessup missive:

Son, we live in a world that needs black sports villains and those villains need to be guarded by ESPN. Who’s gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for “good role models” and curse the name ”Pacman”; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that my life, while tragic, probably enhances your life… and that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, enhances lives — especially white lives. That’s why you can’t let me go; comment 400 to 4000 times each time I sneeze; and never grow tired even after 2000+ ESPN articles.”…

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a sports fan who rises and sleeps under the psychological empowerment that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a keyboard and write a post — about the tons of positive athlete stories you currently ignore while typing your nth comment on how I “just don’t get it”. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think of me!

… Because we both know why you can’t stop thinking of me.”

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