Odell Beckham Jr. disappointed a lot of people yesterday, almost too many to count.
He disappointed his teammates in a 38-35 loss by dropping what would have been an easy touchdown pass from Eli Manning on the Giants’ first drive.
He disappointed the entire Giants organization by engaging in a series of completely self-indulgent confrontations with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman.
And perhaps most importantly, he disappointed every young sports fan who looks up to him by delivering one of the nastiest and most dangerous cheap shots imaginable — a helmet-to-helmet shot at Norman that should draw a suspension from the NFL.
Beckham was nothing short of a revelation in the first 25 games of his career, elevating his receiving skills to an art form with mind-boggling numbers that were not merely good but historically good. But this time he went over the line. Inexcusably over the line.
The head shot he delivered to Norman in the third quarter, in retaliation for some roughhousing by the cornerback, was a gratuitous shot that no doubt will be closely examined by the league for at least a hefty fine, if not a well-deserved suspension.
Just a few days before the release of the motion picture “Con cussion” — which details the league’s unwillingness to believe renowned neurologist Dr. Bennet Omalu’s research into the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is caused by repeated head trauma — Beckham delivered a hideous shot to Norman’s head.
The unfortunate coincidence of the timing will not be lost on the NFL, which now is hypersensitive to the issue of head trauma and no doubt will feel pressure to make a strong statement about Beckham’s hit.
At the very least, both Beckham and Norman should have been ejected from the game for their repeated run-ins, which included Norman body-slamming Beckham in the first quarter. The league very well could decide that Beckham should sit for at least a game, which would be justified considering the viciousness of his retaliatory strike.
Beckham was unapologetic afterward and explained his behavior by saying: “The second man always gets caught. Something I’ve learned in life. It is what it is.”
Asked if he was concerned about being disciplined by the NFL, especially in light of the league’s sensitivity to head trauma, Beckham offered an evasive answer.
“Not really. You can go look at the film,” he said. “I caught a slant [on an earlier play] and the man is diving across my face. Like I said, this is a tough game . . . . We’re out there playing football. We’re competing. You’re a competitor, I’m a competitor. We’re always going to go at it. Anybody who’s played sports is competitive. You’re going to go as hard as you can.”
But anybody who has played competitive sports also knows when things go too far, and Beckham’s cheap shot was over the line. Way over it.
In fairness to Beckham, it’s not as if he has engaged in a pattern of cheap shots, although he was fined for punching a defender in a game against the Bills earlier this season. He still is a very young player who has some growing up to do, and the negative fallout for what happened Sunday almost certainly will be a sobering reminder for him to be more responsible with his emotions.
“You never want to hurt your team like that,” he said of the three personal fouls he incurred. “It’s unfortunate we lost, going against a team like that.”
The retaliatory head shot certainly will be the most memorable moment of Beckham’s day, but his dropped pass was another reminder of his afternoon of futility. He had Norman beaten by a good two steps but had the ball bounce off his hands.
“Those are fairy tale moments that you look to,” he said. “Opportunities come and they go. You either seize the moment or you let them go by. It’s a moment I can never have back.”
He did come back with a touchdown catch to tie it at the end of a frantic 28-point comeback, but the game was lost on the Panthers’ final drive as Graham Gano kicked a 43-yard field goal at the buzzer.
“Anybody who has a passion for football is going to go as hard as they can,” Beckham said. “We lost to such a great team. It’s not fun losing games.”
No, it’s not. But there’s a right way to lose, and Beckham got it dead wrong. Now it’s up to the NFL to decide what price he’ll have to pay.