King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Elite NFL pass-catchers have a lot to learn when it comes to whining for more money. Here's a primer for Terrell Owens, Antonio Gates and anyone else with a beef.

By Salon Staff
August 22, 2005 11:00PM (UTC)
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There's good news for Cindy Sheehan. After this weekend she now knows exactly what she has to do to get an audience with President Bush.

Win the Tour de France seven straight times.

So I feel that I should explain my absence these last two weeks. When the magazine announces on the cover that I'm "on leave," without further explanation, it makes people wonder.


I want to assure you that I wasn't suspended for standing outside the boss's house in the middle of the night, throwing pebbles at the window and screaming that I need and deserve "Tony Kornheiser money."


They were nickels, not pebbles. I'm an artist.


But I feel the experience gives me standing to offer advice to some big-name NFL receivers, which I plan to do at the next monthly meeting of Unseemly Public Whiners for More Money Anonymous (UPW4MMA).

First, to Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers: If you're going to cave in and report to training camp, do it before the deadline to avoid a three-game suspension that includes the season opener, not the day after.

The Chargers invoked a clause of the collective bargaining agreement last week, telling Gates to report and sign the team's third-year tender of $380,000 by the day before the second practice game, Saturday, or they'd place him on the Roster Exempt List once he did sign, which would trigger a three-game suspension.


Gates, who set a record for tight ends by catching 13 touchdown passes last year, his second in the NFL after not playing football in college, reported and signed Sunday.

Guess he didn't take any business classes in college either.

Why report Sunday? If Gates wasn't willing to go to the mat, he should have signed in the offseason, reported to camp on time and gotten his work in. He's not yet an accomplished route-runner or blocker and he has plenty to learn about his position even after that spectacular 2004.


After this season, he'd be eligible for restricted free agency, meaning he could test the market but the Chargers could match any offer. The big money is coming next year.

But he only needed to play six regular-season games to qualify as a three-year man. So his real deadline if he were going to match the Chargers and play hardball was around Thanksgiving, before San Diego's 11th game.

Gates should have learned this playing power forward in college or fighting linebackers for balls over the middle last year: Play it halfway, you get beat. So he'll sit for the first game of the season, having accomplished nothing. He might have accomplished nothing by sitting for 10 games, but at least he'd have rolled the dice.


Terrell Owens isn't rolling the dice. He's playing it safe, living up to the letter of his contract by showing up wherever he's required to show up. But in trying to renegotiate his contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, he's betting on a bad strategy.

Owens has basically tried to appeal to fans' sense of justice and fair play by leaving no thoughts unexpressed as he tries to get Philly to redo the seven-year, $49 million deal he signed before last season, which at this point is really a two-year, $12.5 million deal, since NFL contracts aren't guaranteed except for the signing bonuses.

A slight miscalculation on two fronts. First, it doesn't matter what fans think as long as the Eagles win, and the Eagles won before Owens arrived, they won two playoff games when he was injured last year, and they figure to win with or without Owens this year.


Second, fans don't have a sense of justice and fair play. They have a sense of "Get your ass on the field."

Even if Owens is right that he's underpaid when compared to other elite receivers -- and he is right -- nobody cares. He signed the contract himself, without a gun to his head, and even though $6.25 million a year is below market rate for superstar wide receivers, there just isn't a lot of sympathy out in the crowd, where $6.25 million a year seems like an awful lot of money, and the difference between it and, say, $11 million a year is purely theoretical.

What Owens is making, in the minds of the football-viewing public, is "a lot," and he should therefore get his "ass" on the "field."

Owens didn't help his cause by badmouthing teammates, including hugely popular quarterback Donovan McNabb, or by getting into a dumb tiff with regular-guy coach Andy Reid. And he especially hasn't done any good with his "Everybody always wants to say everything's my fault" routine.


That's because pretty much everyone in the world knows someone who has a knack for getting in beefs and saying things like "Everybody always wants to say everything's my fault." And everything is in fact always that person's fault.

Owens seems to have quieted down since his "Monday Night Football" appearance last week and his return to camp after a weeklong suspension Wednesday, though with Owens the clock is always ticking before his next boneheaded public pronouncement.

He'd be wise to make his case -- which isn't a bad one -- in private to the Eagles, stop trying to win sympathy from an unsympathetic public and, for gosh sakes, keep his agent, Drew "I might not be a weasel but I sure seem like one on TV" Rosenhaus, as far away from cameras as possible.

I'll bring all this up at this month's UPW4MMA meeting.


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Ego Surfing [PERMALINK]

I'm introducing a new feature today in which I'll report what people around the Web are saying about this column. I'm calling it "Ego Surfing."

Ego Surfing may end up being a one-time deal. The only reason I'm introducing it is to give myself an excuse to write about an amusing description of me in the Blotter, a blog at the Twin Cities City Pages.


"Sports columnist King Kaufman," the item reads, "who is palatable simply because he's refreshingly not afraid to not know something about a sport --and is usually dead on when he does -- recently dressed down the idea that baseball attendance is swooning in 'the Heartland.'"

I'm palatable! Woohoo! I'm having T-shirts made. And business cards: "King Kaufman: Refreshingly not afraid to not know something about a sport."

I miss the dot-come boom. If this were seven years ago, Salon would have thrown me a party at Pier 23 to celebrate the launch of Ego Surfing.

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