Forum Spin Doctor
PHILADELPHIA - T.O. might wish he could save his warmup headphones for the game.
With little fanfare - or fans in the stadium - Dallas wide receiver Terrell Owens made his first appearance at Lincoln Financial Field in nearly a year, taking a light jog around the field and catching a few deep passes in warmups before Sunday's game against Philadelphia.
Outside in the parking lot, the vocal exercises had only started. The Philly faithful promised boos like no athlete had ever heard before and warned more than insults might be hurled toward the formerly beloved Eagles star.
Eagles fans have 81 new reasons to hate the Cowboys.
"I have a feeling it's going to be as rough as it's ever been," said tailgating fan Terry Bieler. "After all, it's Philly."
About 90 minutes before kickoff, and with hordes of cameramen packed near the visitor's tunnel, Owens ran out in his Cowboys blue tights and headphones for some early stretching. Eagles receiver Greg Lewis warmly greeted his former teammate and the early arrivals roared when a pass flicked off Owens' fingertips.
Donovan McNabb, his former friend turned opponent, tossed some passes nearby, but the two did not acknowledge each other. Owens jogged back to the locker room after about 20 minutes.
But hours before kickoff, T.O. had already been flattened: His old No. 81 Eagles jersey left in the parking lot was slowly being ground into the asphalt by honking cars and the surly stomps of boorish Eagles fans.
It would have been easier to find fit fans grilling veggie burgers and drinking non-alcoholic beer than an Owens supporter in the packed parking lots. Even Robyn Lonrantz of Toms River, N.J., a die-hard Cowboys fan for nearly 40 years, said she hated having Owens on the team.
Finally, one brave fan was spotted wearing a clean Eagles' Owens jersey. No tape. No scribbled profanity. Did he feel any worry about wearing that in this ferocious lot?
"It's getting burned!" one fan said, pulling it up to reveal a Brian Westbrook jersey underneath.
Some fans did light fire to their Owens jerseys. Another hot item? The shirts that read both "Got Pills?" and "T.O. O.D. O.D. O.D. O.D."
The "O.D.!" chants are both a reference to his accidental overdose and play off the "T.O!" chant he heard from the Philly faithful after every clutch play, all sung to the tune of the popular soccer song, "Ole! Ole! Ole!"
Matt Flinchbaugh of Camp Hill, Pa., arrived in an RV he had detailed on the side with derogatory comments about the Cowboys and Owens. Nearby, he set up a tray with empty prescription drug bottles and various "pills" scattered around.
"The boos are going to be larger and louder than anybody else ever felt," Flinchbaugh said, his T.O. jersey serving as an unofficial doormat. "It's the Super Bowl for us."
Flinchbaugh was part of a tailgating group of 10 that found a spot in the lot at 6:15 a.m. Doing his part to pack his trash cans full of Miller Lite empties, Flinchbaugh said Eagles fans can't forgive the way Owens fractured the team last season.
"He didn't leave on bitter terms. He left on hatred terms," he said.
Mike Maxie of Mickleton, N.J., took a brief pause from his two-game beer pong winning streak to caution that Owens might never want to remove his helmet - even on the sideline.
"He's going to be hurt by pill bottles by the end of the fourth," said Maxie, wearing an Owens jersey that now read "Totally Overdosed" above the name.
Throwing an object as minor as pill bottles might not be a smart idea. The Eagles beefed up security and fans were faced with ejection and possible revocation of season tickets if caught throwing anything on the field, Eagles spokeswoman Bonnie Grant said.
Other than some defaced jerseys, there were no real colorful costumes, although near the local sports talk radio booth there were a few woman dressed as nurses - the kind of nurses you'd see at a strip club and not at your local hospital.
One sign read "One down, one to go" with a photo of Owens and another of former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin being carted off the field with his head immobilized after suffering a neck injury against the Eagles in 1999. The fans cheered Irvin's temporary paralysis, earning national scorn.
Of course, Philly fans are relentless in their jeering, once throwing batteries in anger at St. Louis outfielder J.D. Drew because he didn't sign with the Phillies after they drafted him in 1997. In the most infamous case, Santa Claus was booed and pelted with snowballs during a game between the Eagles and Minnesota in 1968.
A beautiful, sunny 70 degree afternoon took away one Philly fan weapon: There was no chance of Owens being pelted by snowballs.