Arguably the league’s best receiver versus the best corner, Odell Beckham, Jr. squared off against Josh Norman. It was the matchup everyone wanted to see. Two big-time players with equally big-time personalities. It was a match that couldn’t disappoint, but it did when OBJ seemed to have a near psychotic break as the two players clashed.
Carolina fans know that Josh Norman is an emotional player with a flare for the dramatic. He’s adopted a persona as the Dark Knight, a superhero with a darker side, fighting individually against the NFL’s best villains.
OBJ has a similar flare for the dramatic. His unique haircut calls for attention. He enjoys elaborate celebrations, clearly well-thought out and choreographed. His historic career start, punctuated by breath-taking catches and his explosive play, have only fanned his dramatic egotism.
Like Norman, Beckham has embraced a comic book alter ego--the Dark Knight’s rival, the Joker. Sporting the cleats and a custom pair of gloves, Beckham begged for the spotlight last week, and when it came this week, he became especially villainous.
It started from the very first play. Norman got physical with Beckham, likely jawing a bit in the process. Get into their heads, it’s a something Norman tries to do against opponents with excitable personalities. He did it against Dez Bryant on Thanksgiving, and then did it again this week against OBJ.
It worked a little too well this week. Frustrated by a big drop for a wide-open touchdown (game's third play), OBJ lashed out violently as he had trouble getting going. The battle between the two only intensified as Beckham started headhunting for Josh Norman. It started with a slap punch and an illegal hands to the face, both which weren’t flagged, and it progressed to a peel-back block, where OBJ launched and speared Norman to the head.
He went into the half like the Joker in The Dark Knight; Beckham had a psychotic break against Josh Norman and the Carolina Panthers.
It really never stopped. Norman was clearly upset, and his Dark Knight alter-ego looked for justice. Odell Beckham Joker relished in the violence, racking up three unnecessary roughness penalties, celebrated the attention, disregarded pleas from his coaches to settle down, and taunted to the very last snap.
Ron Rivera was particularly disappointed by Carolina’s loss of composure, which he believed Norman’s battle with Beckham so well encapsulated. “We had an opportunity to close a team out,” Rivera said, “and we didn’t do it. “Why?,” he chastised, “because we lost focus and didn’t maintain our composure.” “Josh has got to learn to play through those things...he’s very emotional, and he has to learn how to maintain his composure and play through those things,” Rivera said. “Just turn away and walk away,” he lectured.
Coughlin seemed more frustrated by the loss than by OBJ's behavior. He admitted that OBJ did “lose his composure,” but excused Beckham’s meltdown because he “wanted to win the game.” The disciplinarian has sold out to the need to win as his seat warms in New York.
What Beckham did today went too far. His channeling of the Joker got too real as he had a psychotic break on the field. This isn’t just two guys getting chippy. OBJ intentionally tried to harm Norman. Spearing a guy to the head is malicious, and even the old-school players see it as deplorable. After the game, Norman called on the league to discipline OBJ, saying “players like that, they don't need to be in this game. It's ridiculous.”
It won’t be surprising if OBJ receives a suspension for his headhunting. What may be most surprising in the end, however, is OBJ’s lack of remorse. After the game, he tried to justify his actions. He didn’t apologize for losing his cool, for hurting his team, but instead excused his behavior as a guy caught up on the moment.
Fortunately, Norman wasn’t hurt seriously. I can’t say the same about OBJ’s character though.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
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