Before last Sunday, Odell Beckham Junior’s chief offense to heaven and Earth was a hairdo that looks like a cheap carpet sample. In Sunday’s New York Giants-Carolina Panthers game he demonstrated that when a defensive back consistently gets the better of him, our Odell does not work and play well with others. The Panthers, at 14-0, remain perfect today. They may not have been had Beckham played his A-game instead of going head-hunting.
Early on Panther defensive back Josh Norman was covering Beckham like the dew covers Dixie. Beckham’s reaction to this could more easily be described as assault than as football. For his Sunday rashness, Beckham was suspended Monday for one game by the NFL. Check out the clips and see if you think the punishment might have been a bit light.
Football is a rough game. It’s a skill sport with many gladiator elements. But it’s not a street brawl. There are rules. A frustrated Beckham lost it Sunday, ignored the rules, and treated his matchup with Norman like a bar fight. For the better part of what was otherwise an excellent game, it was NFL Smackdown. Had Beckham done the things he did to Norman on a city street rather than on the field at MetLife stadium, it almost certainly would have fetched him at least a charge of assault and battery, perhaps even aggravated battery for that head-to-head shot well after and away from the play.
Norman is a pretty aggressive defender, and may not have been as pure as the driven snow on Sunday either, particularly early on. It takes two to rumble, a football-savvy friend pointed out to me. But clearly, from where I sat Sunday, the major aggressor throughout the game was Beckham.
More dispiriting than Beckham’s outrageous behavior was the fact that, save for three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, the game’s officials ignored a player whose unhinged behavior was a threat to life and limb. Football fans this week are entitled to ask the following question: Exactly what does it take to get ejected from an NFL game these days? If Beckham had taken a small caliber handgun on to the field and shot Norman, would even that have gotten him the rest of the afternoon off? And where was Giants head coach Tom Coughlin while all this was going on? Was he watching the game? Do Beckham’s on-field assaults meet his standards? Was anybody minding the store Sunday?
After the game Coughlin said he had wrestled with a “strong consideration” to bench Beckham for his outlandish behavior. The wrong decision won that mental wrestling match. As a result, much of Sunday’s game resembled a real wrestling match.
“There are qualities that Odell Beckham brings to this football team, the likes of which I’ve never seen,” Coughlin said. “He has great energy, great enthusiasm. He gives great effort.… He’s an emotional young man. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, and I will not defend his actions yesterday because they were wrong. This particular franchise and organization does not tolerate that.”
Well, Tom, as a matter of fact, this particular franchise and organization, under your direction Sunday, did tolerate Beckham’s actions for sixty minutes on the clock. Just because the NFL officials on the field Sunday neglected their duty doesn’t mean you were clear to neglect yours. Giants fans wouldn’t have liked it if you had yanked Beckham from the game. But doing the right thing even when it will be unpopular is one of the reasons they pay you the big bucks. (It’s also called integrity.)
“An emotional young man” who “wears his emotions on his sleeve” sounds a lot like a condition that could be described in one word: undisciplined. Last time I looked, discipline, absolutely necessary for success at the highest level of competitive sport, was something coaches are supposed to instill in their players. Very difficult to do when you allow a player to run wild for an entire game. Beckham’s Sunday footbrawl was not only a threat to Norman and to himself, but hurt the Giants’ chances of winning the ball game.
In the NFL’s statement on the suspension of Beckham, there is no mention of the game’s officials and why, if as the statement reads, “Beckham’s actions placed his opponents at unnecessary risk of injury and should have been avoided,” the zebras did not eject him from the game. But football’s millions of fans, many of whom, like me, are already weary of the low-class, no class celebrations that players indulge on the field, which range from silly to vulgar, may well want to know why the folks who are supposed to be in charge of the game allow it to slide inexorably to the style and tone of professional wrestling or a street mugging.
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