Around 8:15 AM today, I started writing a post for my other blog, A Word with Culinary Herb. The piece was about how the media overreacted, in my opinion, to the news of the discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in 2004, a bird that had been thought to be extinct for sixty years. I worked on the post off and on between other projects and was about half way finished by the time I had to attend a quality meeting at 10 AM. Immediately before I left for the meeting, I got a message that Terrell Owens tried to committ suicide. I frantically Googled for the first story I could find and printed it out to inconspicuously read while I sat through the weekly snorefest.
The article painted a dark image of Terrell taking thirty-five pain killers in an attempt to snuff out his own life. The article rattled me, but the whole situation didn't make any sense either. I had doubts about the validity of what happened. All of the articles were based on a police report that was half blacked out and didn't contain any names.
When I got back to my desk, ESPN.com had a big picture of Terrell on the top of their homepage and "Owens Attempted Suicide" in a font size larger than I have ever seen on a professional website. The ESPN story was the same exact story I read from a newpaper website I printed before my meeting. ESPN had not done their own research.
Bill Parcells made his typical, "I don't know anything", press conference around 1:30 PM. No news there. Unbeknownst to many journalist, Terrell was outside catching passes from quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Tony Romo. Huh? The guy tried to kill himself just last night, and he is out catching passes trying to prepare for Sunday's game?
Terrell held his own press conference at 2:30 PM and denied any allegations that he had tried to kill himself or that he had his stomach pumped. His explanation made sense and he didn't look like a guy that was lying. He was the same person he always is. I believed him, and I still do. Trying to committ suicide is no longer a crime in the state of Texas, but there is still a mandatory 72 hour psychological evaluation required after any suicide attempt. Terrell was released in less than 12 hours. Anyone that thinks Texas authorities would wave this mandate for a professional athlete is nothing less than an ignorant ass. Also, I have read that no matter how much charcoal a person gets pumped into their stomach, a person does not recover very quickly from a pain killer overdose. If Terrell had taken the alleged thirty-five pills, there is no way he could have been as coherent and energetic as he was during the press conference, much less catching passes on the practice field.
As I finished my piece about the woodpeckers not long ago, I realized that the message I was conveying in that post sort of fits with what happened today. A bunch of journalists grabbed a story without any factual evidence and started posting articles on the internet as fast as their servers would upload. If Terrell really had attempted suicide, where was the compassion? Is using a huge picture of the guy looking despondent after breaking his hand and the word "suicide" in 72 pt. font compassionate? No, it isn't. It is tacky and horrible journalism though.
Brett Favre used to eat Vicodin remnants out of his own puke when the fifth of Jack Daniels wouldn't stay down. The wonderful espn.com didn't use large font for that story. I guess ESPN didn't want a bunch of farmers hopped up on Old Milwaukee flooding them with emails. The idiots at ESPN didn't even realize that Wisconsin doesn't have the internet yet.