Waiting for T.O.

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Even on its best behaviour days, this is one sick sports town.

The city of Brotherly Love's fan-related history of hate crimes needs only a brief review:

Booing Santa Claus, pelting opposition players with snowballs or batteries or both and, of course, the on-site jail in the underbelly of old Veteran's Stadium to handle the thugs.

No surprise then, that predictions for what could be a pretty good football game between the beloved Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys today are distant from the main story.

Into the fray -- and what is expected to be an especially nasty Lincoln Financial Field -- will step the NFL's most notorious character, Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens.

The eadline in the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this week said it all: "Hate Expectations."

That the former Eagle knows the depth to which people despise him and seemingly loves it is a taunting chaser for the hours of tailgate leading to the 4:15 p.m. kickoff.

"I've already heard they've got a little chant for me -- O.D., O.D, O.D. (sung to the tune of the soccer ditty, Ole, Ole, Ole," Owens said this week. "I'm probably the most hated guy to ever come to Philadelphia.

"I always find myself at the centre of the storm."

Psychologists should be so sharp as to nail that bang-on self-analysis. After all, the man-child just can't help himself.

Most recently, it was the reported drug overdose one night and denial the next day to get tongues wagging.

As a San Francisco 49er, in between showing up the Cowboys by dancing on the Texas Stadium star after a score, he questioned quarterback Jeff Garcia's sexuality.

But his best (worst?) act may have come here in Philly two season's ago, when T.O.'s feud with quarterback Donovan McNabb had the locals choking on their cheesesteak.

The love began its slow burn toward hate after Owens was injured and was expected to miss the entire playoffs.

In an attempt to rally his troops, McNabb said the team would get to the Super Bowl "without T.O."

Bad move.

Owens is said to have perceived those words as a slight and began the big sulk.

The Eagles made it to the Bowl, but not without T.O. He made a remarkable recovery to return to the lineup in Jacksonville and was one of the more productive Philly players in their loss to the New England Patriots.

Then things got ugly.

Speaking of McNabb's underwhelming Bowl effort, Owens offered this off-season snipe: "I wasn't the guy who got tired in the Super Bowl."

A training camp holdout followed, then more chirping with McNabb and coach Andy Reid and by mid-season the Eagles had seen enough and sent Owens packing.

Which brings us to today, where the Cowboys, already a heated NFC East rival, will be in the middle of the mess.

If the bizarre overdose story didn't heap enough attention on him a couple weeks ago, Owens couldn't resist a shot at McNabb this week.

"Obviously he has gotten himself into better shape," Owens said. "I think everybody notices he has slimmed down a little bit."

As they will attempt today, Owens' teammates spent most of the week trying not to get caught in the crossfire.

"He seems to be a guy who thrives on adversity," quarterback Drew Bledsoe said. "It's almost like he needs it."

Eagles officials are expecting the worst and have some threats of their own. Season ticket holders caught throwing objects on the field have been warned they will have those passes revoked.

Even that may be a futile threat. As if there was a need to be egged on, one website widely circulating among the Philly faithful offers "The Eagles Fan's Guide To Weaponry.

"If you are going to throw a pill bottle, for God's sake remove the label," it is suggested to avoid would-be felons getting caught by the authorities. "Fill the bottle with water, or better yet (urinate) in it."

Owens knows by now to expect the worst. And in Philly, they rarely fail to deliver.

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TERRELL'S ... TD PLANS

On-line wagering site BoDog offers this prop wager on what Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens will do should he score a touchdown today:

1. Moonwalk 5-2

2. Flapping arms 3-1

3. Run to 50-yard line 6-1

4. Ball into stands 6-1

5. Applaud crowd 7-1

6. No celebration 8-1

7. Anything else 3-2

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