Some people look at Odell Beckham Jr. and see Jerry Rice. Others see Randy Moss, or to be more contemporary, Antonio Brown or Dez Bryant.
I look at Odell Beckham Jr. and see Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez.
That can be either the greatest news a Giants fan could want to hear, or the worst possible curse. Maybe even both.
Understand that this comparison is not based on A-Rod’s transgressions against baseball or the tragic insecurity that drove him to seek refuge in PEDs. Nowhere am I implying that ODB is guilty of similar crimes against his game.
But I do see that they share the same combination of phenomenal talent and a relentless need for attention, both positive and negative. And with both men, it seems as if the negative often outweighs the positive, almost solely through their own actions.
Understand also that I don’t believe for a moment that Beckham’s nautical adventure in Miami — the most notorious boat ride, it seems, since the maiden voyage of the Titanic — had anything to do with the Giants 38-13 loss to the Packers and the incomparable Aaron Rodgers Sunday in Green Bay.
As far as I can tell, none of the Giants DBs, nor Bobby Rainey nor Ben McAdoo nor the special teams coaches were on that boat, and all deserve their fair share of blame, and probably more, than Beckham for the Giants’ one-and-out playoff run.
I mean, how can three — count ’em, three!! — Giants defenders be standing between Rodgers and Randall Cobb in the end zone on a Hail Mary everyone in Lambeau Field knew was coming at the end of the first half, with not one of them able to bat it down?
I’ll tell you how. Because all three of them were going for the easy pick, camping under the football like outfielders waiting for a fly ball to come down, and only one, Eli Apple, made even a half-hearted attempt to jump for it. As a result, the ball settled in the arms of Cobb, who looked like he was making a fair catch.
That, also, is not the only reason the Giants lost. They lost because they dominated the first half and still wound up trailing by eight points at the break, and they lost because their vaunted defense wore down after 2-1/2 quarters, and they lost because Rodgers is simply the best quarterback in the NFC and probably, the league.
They did not lose because Beckham and company took a boat ride on Monday or because the same crew took their shirts off in the 14-degree Green Bay weather on Sunday afternoon. They also did not lose because a frustrated Beckham put his fist through a sheetrock wall after the game. Leave those things for lazy analysts and knee-jerk tabloid headline writers.
They lost for a variety of reasons, both of execution and of attitude, which is all on first-year coach McAdoo.
Which brings us back to ODBJR and AER, and the similarities between the two.
Like A-Rod, Beckham is arguably the most talented player in his chosen sport. Also like A-Rod, he seems to have a knack — or is it a need? — to attract the spotlight in virtually every situation.
This is not a bad thing in itself, but it adds an element of pressure to a situation that is already pressure-filled enough, and it insures that if anything goes wrong –like, heaven forbid, A-Rod comes to bat in a key situation or Beckham allows a tough but catchable pass to slide through his hands in the end zone as he did on the Giants second possession of the game — the attention-seeker will attract an undue amount of blame for the final outcome. And, that fingers will inevitably point back to silly things said player had done in the days leading up to the game, like allowing oneself to be photographed while kissing a mirror or partying on a boat with Justin Bieber, undoubtedly the most egregious of Beckham’s “sins.”
Understand that the boat ride is Beckham’s mirror kiss, or perhaps more fittingly, the time A-Rod allowed himself to be photographed lounging shirtless in Central Park some years back. In other words, an innocuous act that provides all kinds of ammunition for his critics, whether justified or not. And one that is likely to be mentioned again and again throughout his career.
I hate the term “bad optics” but in this case it surely applies, especially when you think back to what Rodgers said in an HBO interview back in July: “You win games between Monday and Saturday.” Whether that is true or not, it is an easy thing for critics to latch onto after a defeat, and for that reason, in hindsight it might have been wiser for Beckham and the other Giants WRs to spend their off-day with at home with their noses buried in a playbook.
But much of what Beckham does — the tantrums, the whining to the officials, the punch to the wall — is the product of immaturity, a disease A-Rod was infected with for much of his career and Beckham is clearly down with now. (Key difference: A-Rod rarely ducked the media and in fact was often more candid after a bad performance than a good one.) A-Rod eventually got over it — never was he more gracious than in his final season as the Yankees seemingly went out of their way to humiliate him. The Giants have to hope that Beckham will, too, and in much less time than it took Rodriguez, because of the relative brevity of an NFL career.
In some ways, I came to believe that A-Rod deliberately sought out such negative attention, because he seemed to thrive on being a “bad guy,” and often performed at his best when the crowd was at its most vicious. It’s possible that Beckham seeks the same sort of anti-hero status, but it remains to be seen whether he will thrive under the hot glare of that negative spotlight, as A-Rod often did, or wilt in its heat. Clearly, his first foray into the pressure cooker of the NFL post-season cooked him alive.
A-Rod, too, had a couple of horrible postseasons for the Yankees before busting out in 2009 and leading them to a World Championship after a nine year drought. The same might someday be true of Beckham.
Of all the similarities between he and Alex Rodriguez, the Giants and their fans have to hope that their limitless talent is the quality that is remembered long after the story of some silly boat ride has been dry-docked.