Before a training camp practice in August, I meandered through a line of Giants fans waiting to get seats for the afternoon workout and asked them their feelings on signing Odell Beckham to a long-term contract as part of a larger story.
The five-year, $95 million extension was still a few weeks away, and there was a noticeable uneasiness about the subject, almost like asking someone who they voted for and why. There was always a caveat. He can play here if he falls in line. He needs to prove to us that he’s all in on football. He should tough out more of those injuries.
Despite Beckham being one of the most singularly talented athletes in the franchise’s history, he never seemed to be fully embraced by a fan base that, at some point during the halcyon days of the Tom Coughlin era, had solidified their expectations regarding the team and what it means to be a Giant. We’ve seen these various mythos pop up over time in the NFL, almost always deteriorating at the first whiff of prolonged failure (how many will be fawning over the selfless Patriot Way three games into their second straight losing season when Bill Belichick is gone?) Beckham moonwalked in at a moment when the Giants were still about Eli and the General. Build the Bridge and Finish. He amassed a Rolodex of gaffes that could be rattled off and instantly recognized like Seinfeld episode titles.
There was never a horde running to his defense the way fans and ever-present alumni cocooned Eli Manning at the first sign of trouble.
Which is why the revisionist history these past few days following his trade to Cleveland for some picks and Jabrill Peppers feels a little tone deaf. The fan base ransacking the headspace of general manager Dave Gettleman for dealing away their best offensive weapon was, in its own small ways, enabled by their own questioning of Beckham’s value throughout his tenure, complaining on Twitter or to their human Hot Pocket filling of a local radio show host. Hell, Beckham even mentioned the division among fans in his farewell message. It’s not as if he didn’t feel it.
Maybe Beckham wasn’t perfect. Maybe he was a good guy and a lot of people in those training camp lines didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t want to. Maybe good teams don’t win with star receivers, so it won’t matter anyway. Or maybe they do.
But it’s hard for the outside football world not to think that this is isn’t a little bit deserved; a reality that enough fans willed into existence over the past few seasons. Beckham travels to a place so thirsty for competent football play that the cops were called on a fan running in circles on his front lawn celebrating the acquisition. So far, they seem happy to receive him as is.
1. Shallow husk of a man complains about departing celebrity who prolonged his relevance.
2. Jesse James seems pretty happy to be away from Pittsburgh, making three of Ben Roethlisberger’s metaphorical children to leave the house unhappy.
3. Once again, it seems Tom Brady’s receiving corps will be a narrative moving forward.
4. What are teams sniffing around on Josh Rosen actually seeing on film?
5. Brandon Beane rips everyone hating on Buffalo.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend everyone. Enjoy responsibly.
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