Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Odell Beckham debacle

I probably should have included some of the following in my previous post regarding the Bonehead Files, but it had run on a bit long.

Nevertheless, any football fan knows NY Giant wide receiver Odell Beckham went berserk on the football field and wound up getting suspended for a game by the NFL honchos (see Roger Goodell). This happened in a game against the undefeated Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. Millions of people saw the obvious. Somehow Beckham forgot about being a professional athlete and became a gang banger, a thug out to wreak violence on another "boy in the 'hood" that had dissed him. Definitely not cool.

[Time out for the ultimate hypocrisy. On the 4-letter sports network, one Trey Wingo stated this story had "taken on a life of it's own". Yours truly stared dumbstruck in disbelief. Did he actually just say that? Thing is, if it wasn't for Wingo and his talking head minions breathlessly reporting on this story every 5 minutes and hyping it like it was nuclear war, there would be no such hysteria in the first place. If Odell got suspended for a week, perhaps Trey should be reduced in rank to Deuce, and suspended for a week or two himself. The crime? Gross media overkill.]

So OB did what every other athlete would do after getting his pee-pee whacked for "conduct unbecoming". He appealed. This is where the professional sports leagues have a major flaw. Granted, a Commissioner like Roger Goodell hearing the appeal of a sentence he has already handed down has always been ludicrous and a travesty of justice, but word has it a fix is in the works. In the future, any appeal will be heard and ruled upon by a neutral third party. It's a start. But this is about the other flaw.

Currently, players have nothing to lose by appealing a fine and/or suspension. The worst that can happen is it will be upheld, but oftentimes the punishment is reduced. We see it all the time. In some cases it's justified. In yet others, they likely shouldn't have been banged in the first place. There was no proof of wrong doing. See Tom Brady and the trumped up Deflategate fiasco.

Yet in still others, the evidence of guilt is so overwhelming that one is left to wonder -- how dare this guy try to scam the system?

In real courts, many criminal defendants have a choice. They can cop a plea for a reduced charge and punishment -- or -- they can roll the dice and opt for a full blown trial. Thing is, if they lose there, the punishment normally gets harsher. We see that all the time as well.

It should be the same way with professional athletes. In Beckham's case, the evidence was indeed overwhelming. Yes, his antagonist, one Josh Gordon, a defensive back, had done his best to get into Beckham's head, but this sort of stuff happens all the time in sports. Stare downs at pre-fight boxing or mixed martial arts bouts. Trash talking on the ice, the court, or some 95 MPH "chin music" to a good hitter in baseball. Kids in high school, much less college or the pros, have long talked trash. It's just a part of their psych ritual. Pump themselves up while trying to get the opponent off his game.

Sure, if a pro football player wants to grapple with an opponent, by all means have at it. Heck, grappling and throwing people to the ground are the very essence of the game. As are hard hits. And if one player wants to slug the other in his facemask -- feel free to do so -- though facemasks are typically much more resilient than bones in a human hand. For sending such a "message" of stupidity a player will typically be assessed a 15 yard personal foul penalty, but no harm has really been done.

But Beckham went WAY too far. Evidently frustrated by not only the trash talk but having Gordon play him physically in man coverage and shut him down, Odell crossed a major line.

On a play that was already over, Beckham got a 10 yard running head start and blindsided Gordon on a helmet to helmet hit. It was the ultimate thug maneuver and definitely meant to cause injury. For this there was no excuse. Luckily, Gordon wasn't seriously injured, but he easily could have been. Besides the possibility of a broken jaw or, God forbid even neck, from such a cheap goonish shot were in play. It could have happened. And while the NFL has finally come around to put in place a long overdue proper "concussion protocol" -- this was exactly the sort of thing that led to so many brain injuries in the first place. A defender lowering his head as a battering ram and delivering a sideways lick on an opponent's helmet. A lot of things can happen, and most of them are bad.

The incriminating evidence was indeed obvious. Beckham did the crime and he should be held accountable for it. Yet Odell Beckham had the utter audacity to appeal his one game suspension. BTW, this was his third personal foul of the game. A player clearly out of control. Again, we've all seen the video(s) countless times because guys like Trey/Deuce seem to think it's mandatory every 5 minutes to force feed it to sports fans. Over, and over, and over again.

Almost surprisingly, the NFL upheld his 1 game suspension. In recent times Goodell and company have gotten so many things wrong, it's hard to predict what they might bungle next.

Which brings me back to the "other" flaw in the system mentioned above. Odell Beckham deserved a much worse fate than what he got. Missing one game check when he's already making millions hardly serves as a deterrent to others that might contemplate such mayhem in the future.

Like courts, the NFL should have another option. When a guy is so obviously guilty -- the videos don't lie -- and he has the audacity to waste the time and services of others trying to scam his way out of it -- he should be banged even harder.

One game is not enough. If yours truly was the judge, I would rule as follows:

Mr. Beckham, your one game suspension may have been fitting for your goonish behavior on the field. I found your deliberate attempt to injure appalling, but such is the nature of a lot of things in the NFL. Everybody wants to hurt everybody else.

However, given the egregious nature of your violent conduct, and the very fact you stand before me trying to justify it, is truly offensive to this court. While I applaud your abilities to catch footballs with one hand, you sir, contrary to the hero worship you may have received of late, and not above the laws of human dignity.

Therefore, I not only uphold your one game suspension, but am tacking on 5 more games. You will not play in the 2015 season finale for the Giants, and will sit out the first four games of the 2016 season as well -- without pay.

This court stands adjourned. What's that? You object, Mr. Beckham?

Fine. I object to your your ridiculous hair. Make that 8 games. Any more questions?

I thought not. Merry Christmas and to all a good night.

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