Philly Columnist Has Leg Up On Competition

By: Joe Strupp From the newspaper that last year had a daily column written by Triple Crown contender Smarty Jones, and has in the past run pieces by the Rip-Off Ranger and Auntie Freeze, comes another unusual scribe just in time for the Super Bowl.

Beginning Friday, exclusively in the Philadelphia Daily News: Terrell Owens' leg.

Owens is the Philadelphia Eagles' star receiver whose determination to play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 despite doctor's orders has sparked the biggest controversy of football's biggest game. Now, Daily News Editor Zack Stalberg promises a daily column from Owens' limping limb through Super Bowl Sunday.

"People come to the Daily News because it is unpredictable," Stalberg noted.

Stalberg offered few specifics on what T.O.'s Leg might bring to the paper through the column, titled "Out On A Limb." Could we see views of life in the whirlpool? The ups and downs of, well, running up and down? Or maybe which rubbing alcohol he prefers? Who knows?

But the freelancing foot will not do it all alone. Working alongside the paper's newest newsy is veteran reporter Don Russell.

"It is an up-close look," Russell told E&P about the column, which he claims will give readers a leg up on any other Super Bowl coverage. "The leg has a close, working relationship with T.O.'s ankle, which is also in the news." But he adds, "There is only so much he (it) may be able to reveal. Some things are between T.O. and his leg."

Russell engaged in similar rewrite for Smarty Jones last spring, and has also worked the keyboard for other character columnists, including the ongoing Joe Sixpack, whose biweekly fermentations look at the joys and sorrows of beer.

The Daily News' practice of offering odd columns dates back almost 40 years, according to veterans of the Knight Ridder tabloid. That's when Phantom Rider, a transit system watchdog, first appeared.

In addition to Joe Sixpack, three other wacky writers remain regulars in the city of brotherly love's second-largest paper: The Urban Warrior, a fatigues-clad woman who writes about city living; Riot Grrrl, a reviewer of public protests; and Stinkmeister, a character described by the paper as a "voice of the pee-and-poop-plagued public."

"As a writer, it is a great opportunity, because you can really do a lot with a character and take on a different identity," Russell has said.

As for T.O.'s Leg, only time will tell if it heals quickly enough to kick-start the team's Super Bowl dream or winds up booted to the sidelines. "That's why you've got to keep reading," Russell stressed. "It will be revealed here first."


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