Terrell Owens is a hard guy to like: he’s built a reputation in football as one of the most difficult team members to have, and if you’re a sports fan of one of the cities whose team he pretty much ruined with his antics his name might still make you cringe. His VH-1 spectacle, The T.O. Show, was intended to enhance his image, but revealed a troubling attitude towards women that left a bad taste in the mouths of many viewers. Last but not least, T.O. is so behind on child support payments for his four kids by four different mothers that he’s been labeled a deadbeat. In spite of all of this, February’s GQ cover story and interview of Owens can’t help but make you feel a little bad for the guy.
A lot of what T.O. has to say sounds familiar: He had such a bright future and has always worked hard at his sport. He made a lot of money (like $80 million a lot) and wasn’t lavish with it but was “too trusting” and now it’s all gone. He wants to be a good father to his children but can’t seem to make ends meet, especially since his athletic future isn’t what it used to be. Much of what he has to say is typical rags-to-riches stuff.
But there’s another side of Owens presented here that’s surprising if not just sad: In spite of some very apparent mental health issues, he’s spent years debunking speculation that he’s bipolar. He’s clearly depressed and makes clear “I don’t have no friends. I don’t want no friends. That’s how I feel.” When people do contact him to check how he’s doing, he regularly responds “I’m in hell.” Most troublingly, his relationships with his children’s mothers are so strained that he has never even met his youngest child and treats the whole situation as group persecution. He’s burned his professional and personal bridges and lacks the perspective to repair them.
It doesn’t make sense for my heart to bleed for Terrell Owens, confessed jackass and — there’s no way around it — deadbeat dad. But this interview sheds a much-needed light on the trappings of success and what can happen to people who simply aren’t prepared to take care of themselves and their responsibilities.
Full text of the interview at GQ.