March 9, 2009
Owens buzz has begunBills' signing suddenly adds sizzle
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA
In 1993, Reggie White stunned the NFL by signing with Green Bay, claiming that the Lord directed him to Wisconsin.
It's unlikely the same heavenly message is responsible for the shocking arrival of Terrell Owens in Cheektowaga.
After all, the shotgun marriage of the flaky Owens and the small-market Buffalo Bills hardly seems to be a match made in heaven.
And yet, upon further review, maybe there actually might be some method to the madness that critics claim finally has overcome Ralph Wilson, the 90-year-old codger who owns the Bills.
According to word out of Buffalo, it was the normally conservative Wilson who pushed for the recruiting of Owens. Pronto. So, while the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers still were debating whether to pursue the biggest free-agent headache out there, the Bills quickly sealed the deal on Saturday.
The Bills allegedly know Owens is a 6-foot-5 time bomb in cleats that, sooner or later, will blow. It happened in San Francisco, in Philadelphia, in Dallas. It will happen in Buffalo, too. And you can bet it will be the sexy story on Eyewitness News when it does.
Unlike most other Bills stories in recent times, however, media interest in Owens stretches far beyond western New York and southern Ontario.
Whether blazing past a double team to snatch a 70-yard bomb or uncontrollably snapping at a teammate on the sideline, Owens always finds the spotlight. And, for an owner, a team and a city that too often have been irrelevant on a national scope recently, T.O. makes them matter again, even if for the wrong reasons.
For Wilson, the tradeoff is one he apparently is willing to digest. If Owens can lead this franchise to its first playoff appearance in a decade and make headlines doing it, his one-year, $6.5-million US deal will be well worth it.
The buzz already has started in Buffalo.
Aside from those moments when Bills booster Chris (Boomer) Berman is pimping the team on-air, Buffalo normally is just a footnote on ESPN. Not now. The Bills, dubbed "North America's Team" by Owens, are huge news all across North America and will continue to be as long as T.O.'s act keeps running its course at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
In western New York this weekend, Owens-mania ruled. WGR, the local sports radio station, pre-empted normal programming for nine hours of call-in chats with fans. Orders for Owens jerseys already flowed in to the team's website. And inquiries about season tickets rocketed.
Before Owens, the Bills were so collectively nondescript, their uniforms should have been beige. Now, with him on board, the networks suddenly are said to be finding the team a desirable candidate for prime-time appearances.
In the end, the potential increase in season-ticket sales, souvenir revenues and television exposure -- and, maybe a playoff berth -- means more money for Wilson, even if it is accompanied by imminent drama.
Of course, it's a good bet that Rogers chairman Phil Lind is smiling at the move, too.
Suddenly, the presence of Owens makes the Bills' 2009 regular-season game at the Rogers Centre an easier sell, even in this trying economy.
Last year's game, which featured the Miami Dolphins, was a snoozefest. The prices were silly. The building was, for the most part, dead, other than the thousands of Dolphins fans who cheered on their heroes to a 16-3 victory. In the wake of that event, there were suggestions that future Toronto games needed sizzle, maybe a visit by Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts.
Now, with Owens coming to town, who cares who the Bills play?
But if the NFL really wanted to inject some zest into this Bills-in-Canada series, why not make the New England Patriots visit the dome? Imagine a game featuring two of the NFL's all-time most talented, selfish personalities in Owens and Randy Moss.
We can hear the money being printed now. In both Canadian and U.S. currencies, of course.