The Giants are losing. It's OBJ's fault.
I just tripped in the street. It's OBJ's fault.
I couldn't pay my bill on time. It's OBJ's fault.
After last weekend's game against the Minnesota Vikings, people were calling for Odell Beckham's head. I must have missed the fact that OBJ played every position on the field while he also jumped on the headset to call plays from the booth.
Beckham is now the biggest subject during a very young NFL season, becoming a scapegoat in the New York Giants' 2-3 start to the season and surpassing the focus on, and the significance of, Colin Kapernick's movement.
When in doubt, blame OBJ. Don't look at the entire game. Don't look at the play calling, missed calls, injuries and lack of depth. And definitely overlook the fact that Eli Manning has only five TD passes to go along with four interceptions this season.
Instead, focus on the three or four media highlighted plays to arrive at the conclusion that Beckham cost the Giants another win. Don't critique his heart and be careful not to praise him when he explodes for a big play, but do go in on him for the penalty that apparently was the sole reason why the Giants lost, 24-10, to the Vikings on Monday Night.
Next to President Obama, I don't think I've ever seen a grown man, especially a grown Black man, be so scrutinized and criticized for almost everything like Odell Beckham Jr.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
On Tuesday, talk shows spent way too much time analyzing Beckham and what needs to happen with him. On ESPN's "Mike & Mike" Tuesday morning, it seemed that the only thing which rivaled Mike Greenberg's quips about wanting to be Robin was the discussion about Odell. Former Steelers' safety, Ryan Clark, joined the show to talk about the situation:
"Guys, we're two years in. The first time we had this issue is last year- Josh Norman. Was he not breaking records before Josh Norman? Has he not played good football since? And so for me, this is not the first day since he came into the League before he made a play, that he had this issue. People were trying to get to him them. We had the Josh Norman issue. Then we didn't have an issue. Then he played Josh Norman again. He was screaming and doing things on the sideline before but then it was started to be watched and seen by us because we focused on him after that issue. He's been in these battles. He's been in these things. It went a little far that day and now we talk about it more. But that's the way he plays. That's who he is. And he can thrive in those situations."
Then Clark really dropped knowledge on what the situation is really all about:
"When he ran up to Xavier Rhodes, asking for a call, there's receivers on 31 other teams that don't get that penalty. But when the referees are told 'hey you gotta watch Odell, don't let him do that' that's why you get that penalty. I'm not going to go all in on him, that he's hurting himself in the sense, no. We're going to watch it, they got to talk about it now so now it has to be fixed because you're going to have to answer questions about it now. But I'm not going to give in that he's killing himself and he can't play that way, because I like it."
Immediately following that show was "First Take" with a "Beating Up Beckham" segment that was almost 15 minutes long. After Will Cain stated how much Odell has to grow up and mature, Stephen A. spoke truthfully when he said, "I'm making the argument that the Giants have been a distraction to themselves for at least six of the last seven years."
He agreed with the comments of his co-hosts about Beckham being childish and immature but went on to state, "What I'm saying is, it's a mistake to stop there and just look at him as opposed to looking at why some things happen."
Apparently one player, in this case OBJ, controls the performance of the entire team and determines the outcome of a game. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, received a 15-yard penalty and was fined $24,309 after the game for the taunting penalty, a penalty which, as Clark addressed, was probably one that wouldn't have been called in most (if not all) other situations.
Beckham didn't help himself with his post-game reaction, his frustration manifested in every sentence:
I just have to understand if I sneeze the wrong way, it will be a flag. It will be a fine," Beckham said. "If I tie my shoes the wrong way, it might be a fine or a flag. It is what it is. You have to understand that. As tough as it is to understand that for a 23-year-old who has been blessed with a lot that God has given to me -- an amazing amount of ability and amazing amount of everything -- it seems like it's all working against you.
In many ways, sports media has to be grateful for OBJ because their dissection of him gives them a hot button topic to address every week. Fans go off on him for being a "distraction" and the primary reason why the team is losing. But they're all acts of scapegoating committed against one man and a camouflaging of the fact that the team collectively has lost the last two games.
Does he need to play better? Yes. Does he need to mature? Yes. Does he need to learn how to keep his emotions in check, become stronger mentally and resolve to not succumb to an opponent's baiting? Absolutely.
But he's 23 years old and has become a target, because of both his talent and temperament, so instead of trying to determine if his taunting penalty can be attributed to something that happened in childhood, maybe people need to take a breath and recognize that he's still developing.
He received one penalty in the game against the Vikings and talk shows went nuclear on him. Mind you, it was with less than seven minutes to play in the second quarter and the Giants were down 14-0. And if you really look at the altercation which elicited the penalty, you have to agree that it was extremely weak. Beckham was upset about what he perceived to be a late hit out of bounds, he said something to Rhodes, there was a little back and forth and that was it. Then the flag was thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct. If that situation garnered a flag, then teams should be cautious during upcoming games because we've all seen much more transpire that was simply broken up without flags being thrown.
Analysts and fans went off on his poor performance; 3 catches for 23 yards, 0 catches in the second half. Without question, the Vikings' Xavier Rhodes shut ODB down and frustrated him the entire night.
But what these sames voices neglected to mention was what the Giants could have done to help their star receiver out. Move him around, set picks for him, etc. Get Rhodes off of him and get Beckham in a different type of match-up where he could make a play.
The Steelers do it with Antonio Brown and it works. AB has been penalized and fined for his TD celebrations, yet he's not crucified for it. But when it comes to Beckham, it's easier to bash him.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
If the Giants had won the game, would everyone be talking about OBJ's "taunt"? Most likely, no. And by the way, if that was a penalty-worthy taunt, the game really has become too sensitive.
Ironically, football media needs Beckham. He's dominated the football news scene across the board. His passion and desire to win might cause him to get smacked by a field goal net, but without his emotions, folks would not have had as much to rant incessantly about. And while we don't know what has transpired in the team's locker room, it's safe to say that the hardest we've seen anyone on his team come down on him on during a game has been that field goal net, which is very telling.
The NFL media should be focusing on something really important, such as speaking with players like the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul about the deadly effects of Hurricane Matthew on Haiti. By doing this they can take a step back, stop blaming Odell Beckham Jr. for everything and let a brother breathe.