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Friday Out-Takes: The Alphabet Wars

The Alphabet Wars
(The p.r. behind T.O., the NFL & VH1)

When the NFL received word that VH1 would be producing The T.O. Show, someone at league HQ apparently mandated that the newest hit for the "Celebreality" channel include a postscript making it clear that they had nothing to do with it. They assumed, fairly in our view, that the travails of T.O. and his sibling-ish publicists would be nothing more than strip clubs and spit takes, and wanted to avoid even the slightest chance of taint-by-association. But, in a bit of pretty hilarious public relations jujitsu, TERRELL OWENS & Co. (self-proclaimed Jerry Maguire Figure, DREW ROSENHAUS, among them) seem to have made a concerted effort to cram the NFL's rather heavy-handed disclaimer - to coin a phrase - "up the league's office."

As reported on these pages last week, it turns out that what The T.O. Show lacks in civic niceties, it more than makes up for in what Hollywood calls the "Aw..." moments. And, in what appears to be a bit of in-your-face payback, Owens and the producers are recapping the show's most precious, heartfelt moments as a cherry-on-top lead-in to the NFL disclaimer at the fade-out of every episode: A montage of genuine emotion, profound connection, personal growth, tears, hugs, what have you, followed immediately by the NFL's judgy, wet-blanket disavowal in bigger-than-it-needs-to-be font (and in ALL CAPS).

In the case of last week's episode, where Owens unraveled the old yarn, "You can't go home again," the Buffalo wideout traveled south to Alexander City, Alabama, for a visit with family and friends, and a retrospective on his Deep South roots. CUT TO: the end-of-show montage, where we review footage of T.O. sitting with the wheelchair-bound woman who raised him - his grandmother, a stoic figure battling Alzheimer's; all dressed up in his Sunday best at church; in a reconciliatory face-to-face with his father, who never went to his games, and who lived with another family across the street from T.O.(!!!)

So there's Terrell - in all his, big, cuddly "I would never THINK of dressing-down my quarterback on the sidelines!" glory - managing to connect through the Alzheimer's haze with grandma (tears streaming down his face); forgiving his long estranged father (tears streaming down his face - AND a hug!); attending church and, in his alma mater weight room, delivering inspiring words, "stay in school" but three of them. Cue the inspiring pop song playing under T.O.'s final thoughts: "For me, to stand here in church and say that's my home, it is my home. I'll never forget where I come from." All of this followed by a freeze-frame of Owens hugging a fellow church-goer and...

"THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE AND ITS MEMBER CLUBS DO NOT ENDORSE AND ARE NOT ASSOCIATED WITH THIS PROGRAM."

As T.O. and the kids would put it, "LOL." Say this - if Owens plays the Patriots as well in week one as he and his posse have played the NFL in the VH1 p.r. wars, MNF promises a whale of an opening night, with the cherry on top being those tears, as ever, streaming down T.O.'s face.

Quarter(back) Life Crisis

all I feel's alone
It might be a quarter life crisis
or just the stirring in my soul...

~ JOHN "

" MAYER

Earlier this summer, ESPN aired a compelling one-on-one conversation between Out-Takes's favorite ESPN-er, MICHAEL SMITH, late of the Boston Globe, and VINCE YOUNG, late of being at all promising as an NFL prospect. Smith spent the afternoon managing to keep a straight face as Tennessee's current #2 signal-caller sought to convince viewers that his "Crazy Land Tour '08" was nothing but a blip, a case of fluky misunderstanding and media reports gone awry. While the Titan back-up came across at times as immature and oversensitive, he does seem to mean well and, hey, it's not like this kid's GARY BUSEY or anything. No one's fitting him for a NICK NOLTE mug shot. That said, if he wants to keep the "Whoa - dude's craaazy" crowd off his back, V-Y may want to ix-nay the following ullcrap-bay spouted during his Q &A with Esquire:

"I will be in the Hall of Fame." (We're going to err on the side of kind and assume that he either left the word "game" off of the end of that sentence or that he's just referring to a long-planned road-trip to Canton. We're still checking on which wild-eyed Cuckoo's Nest extra will be put in charge of stealing the bus, but our money's on a young, blankly grimacing DeVito.) Young followed up that bold prediction with another...

"I will be the next black quarterback to win a Super Bowl." Hey, Vince, change "Super Bowl" to "pre-season game" and "win" to "struggle with my accuracy in" and you might've had a point. (Also, DONOVAN MCNABB and his revamped wide receiver corps say hi.)

Listen, kid, we're all for confidence, and there's no doubt some of the drama from last year was media overkill. But if you're looking to re-brand yourself as a once troubled athlete who's ready to take a chance again (Barry Manilow, underutilized) we're not sure you've noticed but...KERRY COLLINS IS ON YOUR TEAM. Check him out on the depth chart. He's the guy with the number ONE next to his name. Give him a call and your strict attention.

Blooper Reel

~ Look for Houston's secondary to struggle this year, as they recently signed the official Canary in the Coal Mine of NFL defensive backs, DELTHA O'NEAL. Have fun, Peyton! Bombs away!

~ According to Cardinals wideout ANQUAN BOLDIN (an iffy preamble if there ever was one), he has in his hand a list of 15 teams willing to trade for him. No word yet as to how many "known Communists" there are at the State Department, but Boldin and his Joe McCarthy routine are probably just waiting for all this inane Town Hall smoke to clear before he starts naming names.

~ Putting the prudence back in Jurisprudence: PLAXICO BURRIS and his sweatpants waistband mishap get indicted, ANTONIO PIERCE and his "hide and seek" defense doesn't. While the grand jury's treatment of Pierce didn't quite go by the letter of the law, it did seem to embrace a level of common sense and empathy that seems just about right to Out-Takes. As for Burris...

According to Giants radio play-by-play guy BOB PAPA, "Evidently, he's gonna have to go to Ryker's, [but] supposedly the community service hours and the jail time are not appealing to him." Wow. We expected words like "jail," "time," "community service" and "appealing" would factor into Plaxico's legal posturing, but that not in that bizarrely delusional context. And one more thing...

No jail time OR community service? Exactly what kind of sentence were you hoping for, Plax, "More pie?" "Free cable?" "Bonus lap-dance?" Just when you thought an NFL player couldn't display a greater sense of entitlement than Vince Young, here comes hop-along Burris, New York's one-man version of the gang that couldn't shoot straight. Speaking of...

~ As alluded to in last week's Blooper Reel, recent reports out of Jets training camp have gang green and their perpetually optimistic-in-August fan-base all jacked up about their prospects in '09. What went down at the frantically pseudo-macho Delta House of the AFC East? Out-Takes throws it to the Jets' very own Eric "Otter" Stratton, REX RYAN, who "couldn't have been more pleased" by the punches thrown and tempers lost mid-practice earlier this week: "Hey, we had a little rock 'em, sock 'em robots out there!"

Rumor has it that fans gathered at SUNY Cortland - presumably on break from the latest "Why Marino's Fake-Spike TD Was Overrated" symposium - gave the pugilistic Jets a standing O, before assuming group-think that "this is exactly what the team's been lacking all these years! Fire-in-the-belly!" They then dispersed in plenty of time to take in the KEVIN JAMES-sponsored retrospective, "ADRIAN MURRELL: Better than Emmitt or Just Barely NOT Better than Emmitt?"

And finally...

~ PATRIOTS come out strong-ish against Philly, who welcomes newcomer ex-con MICHAEL VICK. (Let's hope he's nicer to the Eagles than he was to the beagles.) Bottom line in this one: Brady emerging intact is kind of all that matters and something called VicKarma pushes the game-winning-but-who-cares FG attempt wide left. And, yes, to answer the question: We ARE ready for some football. Finally.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: MR. & MRS. OUT-TAKES will be on their honeymoon in Montana next week. If anyone's in the neighborhood of the mighty Blackfoot, by all means...don't even think of stopping by. See you on the 28th.

John Cockrell is a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)"

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