The famed wide receiver contributed to high-octane offensive schematics in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas and Buffalo; in each new city, with each new team, the speed by which Owens found the end zone come Sunday was to be outdone only by the speed with which he found a way to alienate himself from team personnel during the remaining six days of the week.
The play called for a post route; Owens was to break his sprint, beat the corner to the inside and move the chains for a first down. With no such goal in mind, he broke the huddle and broke the rules. “I’m running a ‘go’ route,” he barked toward quarterback Donovan McNabb, the team’s infield play caller, already visibly upset by the receiver’s antics.
Owens blew past the corner on the snap and turned in time to watch the ball never come. McNabb’s pass fell incomplete, sent toward a receiver who had run the correct route, and Owens traded places with the punter on the sideline.
He was released from the team not long afterward.
The rebellious nature of the six foot, three inch wide receiver, whose attitude has to this day contributed sufficient doubt in the minds of NFL Hall of Fame voters, tainted an otherwise record-breaking career. And yet, though unbridled, though partially detrimental to both team chemistry and to the record books, rebellion drove Owens.
It’s the reason he survived to reach adulthood, the reason he consistently burned secondaries and frustrated defensive coordinators. He rebelled.
“The apostles were called in and flogged. And ordered not again to speak the name of Jesus, they were let go.” Acts 5:40 well demonstrates a different exercise of the same quality. Welcome to a rebellion of a much deeper sort.
Here we are, at a pivotal junction in the history of all of Christianity, when for all intents and purposes the disciples torched the opposition’s desire to silence the spread of the Gospel. And it’s rebellion that proves to be the distance between Christ’s message and our capacity to deliver it.
At a time when virtually no one in the NFL dared to allow emotion to govern action, no matter how detrimental the results, Owens dared. And at a time when virtually no one in the secular world dares to allow Christ to govern joy, no matter how sensational the results, we need to dare as well.
Doing what others will not or cannot will forever define contemporary rebellion. Looking to rebel against the modern world? Do what it won’t. Read your Bible. Get to Mass. Finish each and every day on your knees. Make sure you understand the source of the smile on your face and the love in your heart.
Rebellion defined Owens. It also defined St. Paul. The capacity of that rebellion is entirely at your discretion. Whether you look to concern yourself with footballs or with the faith, true rebellion means you can’t run to the Lord fast enough.