ANALYZING A TEAMMATE

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Terrell Owens
T.O. doing what he does best: show off.

As NFL training camps open and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens' self-titled book "T.O." hits bookshelves, the word "teammate" is thrown around in conversation. For Owens, the word is preceded by the adjective "bad." Why exactly is Owens a bad teammate? Let's look at the ways a teammate is analyzed

Reputation: Think Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees. He has a reputation for being cool, calm, and collected no matter what situation arises, be it the first inning of the first regular season game or the ninth inning in Game Seven of the World Series. He's the guy you would send up for all the proverbial marbles because he's been there before with much success (see: .307 career playoff batting average).

Effort: On May 11, 2006, the bases were loaded with two outs and the Philadelphia Phillies led by two runs in the first inning. New York Mets right fielder Xavier Nady hit a deep fly ball to centerfield, threatening to disbar the lead from the hands of the Phillies. However, Aaron Rowand had other thoughts in mind. Knowing full well he was going to collide harshly with the fence, Rowand stuck his glove out anyway and caught the fly ball instead of veering off for safety, thusly saving three runs and potentially the game. It is this kind of effort that unites a team to match the effort that another has put out.

Leadership -- Actions:: Some teammates are silent in speech but boisterous in performance. The epitome of this is Jim Thome, who is currently in a three-way tie for second place in the Major Leauges with 31 homeruns. He doesn't rally his teammates with dugout antics or by screaming support by his teammates; rather, he lets his bat do the talking -- and it has, thirty-one times this season.

Leadership -- Words: On the flip side, some teammates need to rally the troops via words rather than by actions. The oft-criticized Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen fits the bill perfectly. He has been criticized for calling out players in the media, but that, surprisingly, is not his forte. He is a smooth motivator, and he can be counted on to be a broken record on the top step of the dugout, shouting support to his ballplayers. Some managers are limp and lifeless on that top step; Guillen is on a neverending sugar rush.

Off-the-Field Actions -- Charities: Boston Red Sox ace Curt Schilling has been a staunch supporter for ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) research with his "Curt's Pitch for ALS" program, which allows fans to sponsor him by donating to ALS research everytime he strikes out a batter. Schilling and his wife Shonda also housed a family of nine that was in an unfortunate situation following Hurricane Katrina. It is with these actions that Schilling not only improves the quality of life for those he helps, he motivates his teammates (and fans) to be active in the community themselves, certainly an attribute any general manager would adore in a player.

Off-the-Field Actions -- Media: John Rocker's handling of the media (the infamous Sports Illustrated interview) is not something to idolize, and neither is Kenny Rogers' cameraman incident. The key in this facet is to get right in-between the two extremes of talking too much and talking too little to the media. The team gets negative press when the players and coaches talk too little and throw out overused cliches. Likewise, when the personnel say whatever comes to mind, such as Phillies chairperson Bill Giles, who said that starter Brett Myers, charged with assaulting his wife Kim, "was trying to help his wife." One wants a happy medium of the two in a teammate; the knowledge to know when to talk.

Billy Wagner
Billy Wagner is always willing to let you know
what is on his mind.

Off-the-Field Actions -- Image: Some players who won't be considered good teammates anytime soon: Brett Myers, Ricky Williams, Fred Smoot. Why? They all have battered images: Myers assaulted his wife, Williams is a chronic marijuana user (pun intended), and Fred Smoot was on that boat party that just wasn't worth it in retrospect. A good teammate has, at least on the outside, a clean image, like Derek Jeter.

Personality: Is your teammate an extrovert, like Billy Wagner? Is he ready to fire off at the mouth at will? Or is he an extrovert in the sense that he lightens up the mood in the clubhouse with pranks, such as the traditional shaving cream pie-in-the-face-after-a-game-winning-hit? Or is your teammate an introvert, like Bobby Abreu, content to go to go on and off the field just the same without any excessive flair? Both types have their advantages, and both types are usually present in successful clubhouses.

Loyalty: "What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse." One may have heard that phrase in regards to Barry Bonds' alleged steroid use and his San Francisco Giant teammates who may have witnessed it. Despite the fact that they may not like him, the unwritten rule in baseball is not to tattle on one's teammates. Jose Canseco broke this rule with his book "Juiced," quite obviously. Trust is one of the intangibles that all players and managers must have in each other in order for the team to be cohesive.

Motivation: Teammates have many different motivations. Younger ones are fighting to keep their jobs, while veterans may be showcasing themselves in the hope of a trade or to sign in the offseason as a free agent. All teammates, though, share two motivations: money and championships. The difference, however, is that good teammates put their team first (championships). Is a teammate willing to bunt with runners on first and second and nobody out, or is your teammate greedy for that extra RBI that could make his statistics look that much better?

Contracts: How did a teammate handle his contract negotiation? Did he hold out, like so many first-round draft picks? A good teammate will say, "I want to do what's best for the team by attending minicamp. We'll discuss my contract when it's pertinent -- in the offseason."

THE T.O. TEAMMATE REPORT CARD
Category Good or Bad? Why?
Reputation Poor Owens is ubiquitously known as a bad teammate, more often referred to as "a cancer in the clubhouse." He has a poor reputation and it will take more than one season to repair it.
Effort Good Owens is a workhorse: his workout regimen is among the best in the NFL, and he gives the proverbial 110% each and every game, which can best be summarized by his Super Bowl XXXIX performance, coming back from a broken ankle against his doctors' wishes with 9 catches for 122 yards.
Leadership -- Actions Good His actions on the field make his team better. Off the field, not so much. However, it really matters on the field, which is why he has a good score in this category.
Leadership -- Words Poor Let's just suffice it to say that Terrell Owens will not be giving any self-motivation seminars once his career is over. His way with words is abrasive.
Off-the-field Actions -- Charities Poor Considering the fortune that Owens has made lately, you would think he would have the time and money for a bit more philanthropy, but he still only holds one charity function a year, "Terrell Owens takes a T.O. for charity." He had promised to sell his Eagles NFC Championship ring to raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief. However, he decided to protest the Eagles' refusal to renegotiate his contract by not accepting the ring.
Off-the-field Actions -- Media Poor Every night is fireworks night when a microphone is positioned under Owens' mouth. One would be hard pressed to find an endearing moment Owens' had with the media that wasn't laced with self-congratulatory remarks.
Off-the-field Actions -- Image Good Owens is clean as a whistle: Owens has yet to get in trouble with the law, and he has no history of drug use.
Personality Poor Once again, the word "abrasive" comes to mind. His personality is so grating, he brought the Eagles' revered quarterback Donovan McNabb down to his level in throwing verbal barbs via the media.
Loyalty Poor He signed a seven-year deal and wanted a new deal after year one. Not very loyal. He's also proven he's willing to toss any and all teammates under the bus if it means progress for himself.
Motivation Poor He may have gotten to the Super Bowl, but he had dollar signs in his eyes the whole way.
Contracts Poor As mentioned previously, he signed a seven-year deal and wanted out after the first year.

The Result: Terrell Owens is the receiver you want on your team if you're looking to win this year. Don't look for long-term commitment or any other niceties from Owens. He has a me-first mentality and it's not going to change.