When professionals don’t act professionally

Justin DiBiase

By Justin DiBiaseStaff Columnist

I am officially ending my relationship with one of my fondest idols. I had been an admirer, client and proud supporter of this man for about two years. His confidence, swagger, smile, ability and perseverance led me to admire this man’s work. It was only after about two dozen incidents which even Billy Madison would consider immature that I am through supporting this man. I speak of Terrell Eldorad Owens.

I must admit, I am a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan, and that fact was the main reason I looked so highly upon Mr. Owens. However, after the recent fine levied to him by the Dallas Cowboys, I am perplexed as to how Owens is still considered a “professional” football player. As the hard working students of Villanova University work toward their degrees and their future professions, my buddy T. O. is making a mockery of his job and his coworkers. Since Mr. Owens is being paid a fairly substantial salary to play a game, he should at least abide by the somewhat lax set of NFL’s codes of conduct. If Joe Smith has to wear no less than 10 pieces of “flair” while working 50 hours a week for near minimum wage at a burger shack, then football players should be able to arrive to work on time and show up for rehab sessions.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones dug deep into his heart and pocket to give Owens a chance this year. When all other teams shut their doors on Owens, Jones gave him an opportunity. How did the all-pro respond? Before he even played one game as a “Boy,” Owens missed a team meeting, a rehabilitation session and was late to an offensive meeting. If his record were squeaky clean, the media and Cowboys’ management would probably not have issued such a harsh penalty. However, for a man whose track record includes arguing with head coaches, calling his former teammates “gay” and holding out of play for more money, these recent offenses were nothing less than idiotic.

Sure, T.O. has talent oozing from his six-foot-three frame. The fact is, he does not belong in the NFL. He has been given more second chances than leftover Thanksgiving turkey. It is mind-boggling to think that Owens actually made a sizeable amount of money off of his transgressions by writing about them in two books. Okay, his celebration dances are fun, and the guy has a great smile, but T.O. cannot have fans smile back at him unless they can respect him.

One key fact that many professional athletes as well as Owens just do not understand is that they are employees and very important figures in the American culture. There is no room for Owens’ antics; nor is there room for Ozzie Guillen’s maniacal brain or Ron Artest’s ventures into the stands.

Imagine if the School of Engineering hired a genius doctor with a bad track record. How long would the doctor hold his or her position after missing a mandatory staff meeting, oversleeping one of the classes that he or she taught for graduate school, and then arguing with Father Donohue all within the first week of school? It is about time some athletes start to think of themselves as parts of franchises, not the actual franchise.

Professional athletes are already America’s golden boys. Thousands of people admire their athleticism and heroism. Little Johnny is not wearing the autographed uniform of the mailman. This generation of sports stars will forever be known as cheaters, liars and egocentric businessmen. There are plenty of “good guys” in professional sports like Tim Duncan, Dikembe Mutombo and Albert Pujols. The truth is that the bad apples are always brought to the forefront in the media. The professional athletes of the future are seeing star players like Owens and Artest act like teenagers, and some youths actually imitate their bad behavior. More and more rookies and college players are imitating the immature actions of some professionals.

Without question after Owens wears out his welcome in “Big D,” another stargazing owner with dreams of Super Bowls and increased ticket sales will pay T.O. a hefty sum of money to come and ruin his team. I am not asking for T.O.’s head on a stick; I just think owners and other people in positions of power in professional sports should laud their professional players and treat their bumbling, complaining players with the respect they deserve: none.