It began late Sunday afternoon. I still have it. Symptoms include bloating, gas, depression. Could be a case of Sepp Blatter.
The depression is the worst part. It never has been more depressing to be a sports fan than it is now. Whatever specks of sport were left still seem to have been eradicated by Sunday’s Panthers-Giants game, the latest new-low disgrace — and the latest inevitability.
If that “game” didn’t leave you depressed — kinda like watching a reel of dogs being run over — perhaps you’ve lost or never had any sense of sports. Or maybe you scored from DraftKings.
But all credit where credit belongs: That Odell Beckham Jr.-Josh Norman on-field street fight made more see-the-light overnight converts than a death row chaplain. Those media and fans who called on teams to “play with swagger” while ridiculing the NFL as the “No Fun League” suddenly concluded — many decades too late — that the sky has fallen.
Come to think of it, after that third, early-game clawing between Beckham and Norman, ref Terry McAulay chatted with both head coaches. Both nodded. Based on what occurred following those conversations, we can only conclude McAulay told each, “Fellas, I’m giving No. 13 and No. 24 exactly five more chances each! Got it?”
Let’s play it in sections, as per the prevailing fallout:
1. “The Game Has Passed Tom Coughlin By”
That was self-evident years ago. Coughlin has stood still while the game has raced past him — in reverse.
The demonstrative, self-smitten, me-firsting, chest-pounding player has become the NFL standard, celebrated and rewarded by TV in every game — until Sunday’s — starting with the promos at the top of the telecast through to the last slo-mo replay of a player performing an obligatory dance of excessive self-regard.
Sure, the game has passed by coaches such as Coughlin. Today’s players demand respect — in exchange for none. He and others have been forced to ditch their dignity in order to stay in the game — and in order to prevent short-sighted, faux-hip claims that they’re “out of touch with the modern player.” The “modern player” has been conditioned to draw as much immodest residual attention as possible. And the payoffs, especially from TV, are instant and guaranteed.
In the case of Beckham, he conforms to the dress-for-success standard in every way, from his crazy-headed dyed hair “style,” two sleeves of tattoos and what “dancing shoes” he might wear in the next game. Or is he just another dumb blonde?`
If there was anyone to tell him differently — to encourage his talent to speak loudest — well, too late, now.
The most practical NFL coach, these days, is the Rex Ryan type, with nothing or very little beneath their dignity. Those who would use the Bills-Jets coin flip to goad opponents by honoring the former Jet who broke Geno Smith’s jaw. Class act.
Ron Rivera, early in Sunday’s telecast, was saluted by FOX with this quote: “One thing I did tell these guys. Keep true to your personality. Keep true to who you are.”
Apparently that would include Norman bringing a baseball bat to games, a weapon to threateningly brandish at specific opponents before games such as Sunday’s.
Say, what’s the NFLPA’s position on that act?
These are professionals, college men, too. How is it that our colleges now mass-produce active sports vandals?
2. The NFL’s Response
In suspending Beckham, the NFL explained he “clearly did not represent the high standards of sportsmanship expected.”
Sportsmanship? That ship sailed — then was torpedoed — at least 30 years ago!
Sportsmanship? Somewhere, presumably out on bail, Hall of Famer and former “Inside The NFL” TV star Warren Sapp got a kick out of that one. Ray Lewis, too. The NFL was so appalled by his blood dancing after nailing opponents in the head — he frequently was flagged then fined for it — he was chosen to push NFL merchandise in TV ads.
But the NFL says a lot of things we know to be untrue. Roger Goodell: “PSLs are good investments,” DraftKings and FanDuel are “not gambling” and “It’s all about the fans.”
The NFL has moved Sunday’s Giants-Vikings game from 1 p.m. (ET) to 8:30 p.m. for NBC money. Yeah, all about the fans. A Sunday night game outdoors in Minnesota in late December. Only greed could make that happen.
3. The Night-Of, Day-After, All-Week Gasps From The Media
We’re aghast! Apoplectic! Appalled! So what?
The same networks that for years have served as servile prompts for players to their immodest worst are now going to change? Will the no-upside, downside-only pandering cease? Fat chance.
NBC’s Sunday night studio show — NBC’s NFL telecasts for years have opened to clips of players showboating — included a lecture from panelist and former NFL defensive back Rodney Harrison.
Over a replay of Beckham landing a helmet-first shot to Norman’s helmet: “This is why you want to avoid the foolishness. You can get one of your best players hurt, and you don’t want him missing two or three weeks.”
As per the replay of Beckham catching a touchdown pass then performing a me-dance over him, Harrison: “I could see why Josh Norman was upset. … But this is the problem I have, stepping over guys, just flat-out disrespect. You’ve got to show some sportsmanship.”
Well, ya don’t say. Harrison three times was voted the NFL’s dirtiest player — twice by NFL players, once by coaches. He was fined in excess of $200,000 and suspended. And Sunday night on national TV he scolded Beckham for unsportsmanlike conduct. Cry me a river, Jimmy Swaggart!
4. Beckham As Uncured Ham
The Giants, 6-8, arguably — reasonably — would be 8-6 if not for Beckham’s thoroughly modern behavior.
That ruled-incomplete late game TD against the Patriots seemed the result of his eagerness to perform his latest protracted, thoroughly foolish post-TD skit — the kind TV is eager to focus on as the essence of his presence.
Then there were Sunday’s flags-a-flyin’ flip-outs, suspension to follow.
Beckham should be the easiest guy in town to root for, yet the demands and commands of “modern football” won’t allow it. That’s depressing.
5. Giants’ DL Reprises 1960s Dance, The Jerk
While Beckham’s behavior has, in some places, been explained by his youth — he’s 23 — how to explain Robert Ayers, who’s 30?
The Panthers were up, 28-7, first-and-goal at the 1, when Ayers sacked Cam Newton — then did a spasmodic, check-me-out dance of self-affection. Just in time, too. Two plays later it was 35-7.
Yep, the game has passed Coughlin right by. Whoosh! He’s not alone. He likely entered the NFL expecting professionalism from pros; he didn’t realize he’d have to be a babysitter for incorrigible young college men.
What the Giants need — what all teams need — is a coach who says, “Don’t forget to pack the bat!” May the farce be with them.