It's hard to see what the Eagles actually won

Memo to Philly: Congratulations! Tell me again what you've won.

Oh, that's right: You've won the right to keep your best receiver away from you for the foreseeable infinity, going from suspension to deactivation to, one assumes, removal from the Christmas card list and disbarment from the company soda machine.

On purely emotional terms, the arbitrator ruling, which was announced Wednesday, had to have been satisfying on almost every level. Richard Bloch agreed, basically, that the Eagles were well within their rights to suspend Terrell Owens, that they could further deactivate Owens for the rest of the season once the suspension ends, and that, generally speaking, Owens is a boil on the backside of team-appreciating, cohesive-unit-loving people everywhere.

It puts Philadelphia completely in the driver's seat in terms of the Owens mess. The Eagles can simply run out the string here and then cut T.O. in the offseason. They don't have to do anything just this minute, and that comes as close to a courtroom win as anything that could have been expected.

But an actual football victory? Not so fast. Step back about 10 paces. You will see a team that just last season played in the Super Bowl, and now is sub-.500, operating without its top receiver, and dealing with the injury-related loss of its quarterback.

You will see a Philadelphia team that signed Owens -- knowing he could be trouble -- believing he might be the final piece of the puzzle to deliver them an NFL championship. As it turns out, the Eagles got one shot at that ring, came up short and then saw their franchise torn inside-out, one media circus at a time.

You will see a team that expended untold amounts of emotional energy dealing with a man-child to whom it now will pay about $1 million to stay away from the rest of the fellas until the season is over.

Victory? Nope, nope and, in other news, not a chance.

I was among those who believed Owens was worth some blowback, including a little guttersniping or me-firsting now and again, so this is no told-you-so moment. No second-guess here. It was a fair gamble. For that matter, once the self-referencing, Drew Rosenhaus-represented Owens hits the open market, I'm on the record right now as saying there will be teams out there that call and call quickly, although they'll do it quietly to avoid having their front offices surrounded by people with pitchforks and torches.

There is no professional sports league on earth that does not indulge talent, and the greatest talents -- Bonds, Jordan, et al -- are always indulged to the greatest degree. Owens has pretty clearly proven himself to be capable of the most ludicrous sort of behavior -- but none of it is criminal, teams will say! They don't exactly set the bar sky-high in the pros. Oh, people will call.

They'll call, and one way or another, Owens will be somebody else's problem eventually. And after that, Philadelphia and coach Andy Reid will sit back, exhale loudly and then consider whether Donovan McNabb was right when he said he thought the team might do just as well without Owens.

There was no confusing McNabb's message, of course. He wasn't saying Owens couldn't contribute. He was saying the team dynamic is a slippery, tricky thing and it is always possible to become greater as a whole than the sum of one's parts. You can be a great player and still hurt your team, or an average player and greatly contribute. That was the message, and it won't stop being true anytime soon.

Still, the reason people will call about Owens, or even bring themselves to deal with Rosenhaus at all, is simple: Owens does make plays. He makes huge plays and first-down plays. He can change the angle of an NFL game with a single reception. He is genuinely a great football talent.

He's also one of the all-time pains in the keister, which, among many other reasons, explains why Owens will be making those plays for someone else in the future. If the only goal here was to make sure that someone wasn't Philadelphia, mission accomplished. Just don't confuse it with any larger victory.

Mark Kreidler is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Reach him at mkreidler@sacbee.com.