FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Nestled in the picturesque tree-lined New England countryside some 40 kilometres south of Boston, beautiful Gillette Stadium will comfortably seat almost 70,000 Sunday for the much-ballyhooed season opener between the host Patriots and visiting Cincinnati Bengals.
But even this massive structure might still not be big enough to contain the enormous egos of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, three of the biggest prima donnas in pro sports.
For the first time in their respective careers, these extremely talented receivers - and, in some instances, headcases — will do battle on the gridiron in the same regular season NFL game.
Just call it The Diva Bowl.
All three think they are great. All three love to catch passes. And all three enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror afterwards.
A year ago, Owens and Moss kicked off the 2009 season in this same venue when the Buffalo Bills came to play the Pats. The Owens-Moss showdown was hyped for weeks leading up to the game, an understandable situation given that both are ticketed to have their butts grace the hallowed Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton one day.
As is the case when the buildup to an event reaches such a fever pitch, the T.O.-Super Freak battle did not live up to its billing.
While Moss’s 12 grabs were key in New England’s dramatic 25-24 victory, Owens made just two receptions. Significant blame for those weak numbers must go on the shoulders of Trent (Captain Dumpoff) Edwards, who has never met a checkdown he didn’t like and barely looked Owens’ way all evening.
Twelve months later, Owens finds himself on a Bengals side that seems intent on regularly putting the ball in his huge paws. With Ochocinco on the other side, defences will go loony tunes attempting to decide which wideout to double cover.
But that’s not the only difference for T.O. this time around.
Often accused of being a showboat, Owens has been relatively reserved compared to Ochocinco and Moss this past week.
Owens. Reserved. When was the last time you saw those two words in the same sentence?
Ochocinco, on the other hand, got the propaganda machine churning when he claimed that, if he scores a touchdown, he will shoot one of the muskets carried by the Pats’ mascot minutemen.
Not buying it? Be careful. Don’t rule anything out with this guy.
This, remember, is the same Chad Ochocinco who once donned a replica Hall of Fame jacket on the sidelines with the words “Future H.O.F 20??” printed on the back.
Wade through the schtick, however, and one thing is certain: Ochocinco knows there will be more opportunities on the field with Owens now in the mix.
“It’s going to be a freaking symphony out there,”
Ochocinco predicted. “We’re going to go hand in hand.
“A lot of people are waiting on us not to work and all this other hoopla or whatever. We’re making each other better, pushing one another.”
Moss has endured his own issues, telling a Boston newspaper this week that he felt as if he was “not wanted” by the Pats. In the final year of his contract, The Super Freak obviously is frustrated that the Pats have yet to show him the money.
That might be a good thing for the Pats in the end. It’s unlikely Moss is going to dog it this season because he is playing for another contract, perhaps his final one as a pro. And he simply likes money too much to simply just flush it away.
Add it all up, and The Diva Bowl at The Razor could be one of the most entertaining, highest-scoring games in recent memory. At least it has the potential to be.
Now pass the mirrors.
TARS OF THE DIVA BOWL
BATMAN, ROBIN & THE SUPERFREAK
Bengals @ Patriots
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Aka: Terrell Owens
Source of Nickname: Given to him by teammate Chad Ochocinco after Owens was signed by the Bengals over the summer.
Owens needs just six receiving TDs to become just the second player to reach 150 career TD grabs. The great Jerry Rice, inducted into the Hall of Fame last month, leads the all-time list with 197.
Frustrations in Foxborough
This is the second consecutive season T.O. will open up the season in Foxborough against the Patriots. Virtually ignored by Trent Edwards a year ago, Owens was targeted just three times by the Bills QB, grabbing two of those for 46 yards in a last minute, gut-wrenching 25-24 defeat.
In 2002, while with the 49ers, Owens dances on the fabled midfield Star at Texas Stadium after scoring a TD. His celebration is cut short when the Cowboys George Teague steamrolls him.
Suspended by the Eagles for four games in 2005, T.O. holds a bizarre, impromptu press conference in his driveway where he proceeds to do sit-ups while answering questions from the press. All this circus needed was an elephant. It already had its chief clown.
The Forecast For Batman
Owens was pretty much a model citizen in Buffalo last season, a campaign in which the Bills failed to use him enough. There is still something left in the tank here. Don’t be surprised if his stats are comparable to, if not better than those of Ochocinco’s, at season’s end.
STARS OF THE DIVA BOWL
Aka: Chad Ochocinco
Aka: Chad Johnson
Source of Nickname: Proclaimed he and Owens would go by Batman & Robin prior to training camp, with Ochocinco playing the role of the Boy Wonder.
Despite the hype and hoopla that constantly swirls around Robin/Johnson/Ochocinco/whatever he is calling himself this week, he has reached the 10-TD mark in a single season just once in his career.
The Name Game
During the pre-game warmup prior to the Bengals game against the Falcons on Oct. 25, 2006, Johnson emerged with the name “Ocho Cinco” on the back of his jersey. An off-season resident of the Miami area, he said it was in honour of Hispanic Heritage Month, Ocho Cinco being the Spanish translation for “85.”. After reportedly being fined $5,000 for his antics, Johnson legally changed his name to Chad Javon Ochocinco on August 29, 2008.
Watch Your Johnsons
Claiming he was thinking of promoting his own line of condoms, Ochocinco forwarded the image of a prototype box of them on his twitter account for all the world to see. The slogan? “Catch Everything Your Johnson Is Shooting.” We are not making this up. Honest.
In 2005, Ochocinco started keeping a checklist in his locker for all to see of the opposing defensive backs he would face during the course of the schedule. Once the game was over, he would grade that particular DB. It’s no surprise that Chad didn’t hand out many good grades.
The Forecast For Ocho
With Owens in the mix, Ochocinco no longer will be double covered on almost every play like he was a year ago. Good news for both himself and the Bengals.
Aka: Randy Moss
Source of nickname: Amazing mixture of size and speed had teammates like Cris Carter immediately calling him Superfreak during his rookie season. At one point he had his own line of shoes called Superfreaks.
Needs just six receiving TDs to become just the second player (after Rice) to reach 150 career TD grabs.
Back in April 1996, Moss, scheduled to finish the remainder of his 30-day sentence for misdemeanor battery while in high school, smoked a marijuana joint before turning himself in. Bad move. Given a drug test within days, he tested positive and was placed in solitary confinement for a week. He also had an additional 60 days tacked on to his original 27-day sentence.
In 2002, while still a member of the Vikings, Moss knocks a Minneapolis traffic cop to the ground with his car, then is charged with drug possession. He later reaches an out-of-court settlement with the officer.
Freaky AND Cheeky
During a 2005 playoff game between his Vikings and the rival Packers at Lambeau Field, Moss leads Minnesota to victory with a pair of scores. After his second TD, he pretends to pull down his pants and moon the crowd, igniting 60,000-plus crazed - and unimpressed - Packer zealots to jeer him.
The Forecast For Super Freak
Now in the last year of his contract, he says he’s not feelin’ the love from the Pats. No matter. Looking to get a new deal from ANYONE next spring, he wants to put up big numbers.
- Mike Zeisberger