Well, of course we couldn’t begin our coverage of the Giants’ first playoff game in five years without a mention of Justin Bieber. Silly us for even thinking it was possible!
But here we are, approaching the Giants’ meeting with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on Sunday in Green Bay, and the Biebs has come crashing into the story line. And it’s not even Wednesday.
It seems the Giants’ receivers, led by Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz, decided to celebrate a season-ending 19-10 win over the Redskins by taking a quick trip to Florida to party with Bieber and rappers Fabolous and Trey Songz at the Liv nightclub in Miami Beach. In a photo from the Snapchat account of Songz that was widely circulated Monday on social media, Beckham, Cruz, Sterling Shepard and Roger Lewis Jr. are shown shirtless on a boat.
Is this the way players are supposed to be getting ready for a playoff game? Shouldn’t they be getting their rest, or watching extra video, or doing something besides jetting down to Florida?
Some fans will be quick to accuse Beckham, the Giants’ best player, of setting a poor example as he awaits his first NFL playoff game. And there will be those who think Beckham should have used better judgment with an impressionable rookie like Shepard. But the guy whom one might expect to be at the head of the line in terms of being troubled by the behavior doesn’t have an issue with what happened.
“[Monday] is the players’ day off,” coach Ben McAdoo said when asked if it was appropriate to be living it up at the beach. “We look forward to getting on to Green Bay when they get here [Tuesday].”
Asked again if he took issue with their decision to party until the wee hours, McAdoo said: “Players are off until [Tuesday] morning. They’ll get their workout in and we’ll get ready for Green Bay.”
Will he discipline them for taking a trip to Miami? An increasingly testy McAdoo replied, “The players are off. They’re not working.”
Translation: It’s OK for them to blow off a little steam if they so choose. And as long as they’re not breaking any laws, there’s no issue. And that’s coming from a straight shooter of a coach who probably wouldn’t know Fabolous from Fabio or Trey Songz from Trey Wingo. (Full disclosure: Until Monday, I didn’t, either.)
This whole notion of professional athletes being expected to devote every waking hour to their craft is not new, and it’s a naive and unrealistic narrative. Ever since people have been paid to play sports, there have been countless examples of even the greatest ones indulging in extracurricular activities.
Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle were Hall of Fame sluggers who were as familiar with last call as they were with home run trots. Before smashing the Patriots in Super Bowl XX in New Orleans, several prominent Bears got smashed on Bourbon Street. Super Bowl I hero Max McGee was nursing a hangover when he replaced an injured Boyd Dowler and turned in a spectacular performance. And if there ever was a Giants star who rewrote the rules on partying, it was Lawrence Taylor. While much of what he did, especially taking drugs, can’t be condoned, his behavior did not impact what happened on the field.
Of course, there is the infamous Tony Romo-Jessica Simpson trip to Cabo San Lucas during the bye week preceding the Cowboys’ first playoff game in 2007, and their loss to the Giants at home stoked plenty of controversy. But Romo didn’t lose because he spent a few days in Mexico with his then-girlfriend. He lost because he wasn’t good enough against the hottest team in the NFL, the team that went on to win the Super Bowl.
The trip by Beckham and his teammates was a much quicker one, and there’s no bye week to worry about. No one knows whether they over-imbibed (or imbibed at all), but that isn’t the point. The point is that they’re entitled to do as they wish on their own time. So if these young athletes with gobs of energy and plenty of disposable income see fit to hang out with the Biebs and a few of his friends, big deal. As long as they’re ready for Sunday — and there’s every reason to believe they will be — it’s a non-issue.
And while no one in the Giants’ locker room is making any guarantees about what might happen on Sunday, it seems safe to make this promise ahead of time: What happened late Sunday night into Monday will not be the deciding factor in whether the Giants win in Green Bay.