By Jason Keidel
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You don’t need Ancestry.com to get why the Jets/Mets and Giants/Yankees have been their own sports bundle to fans for generations. Just as the Jets and Mets shared Shea Stadium from the 1960s until the ’80s, the Bombers and Big Blue shared Yankee Stadium in the ’50s and ’60s.
The latter tandem was more corporate, if not successful, promoting a sense that you were not only knowledgeable but also more civilized. Shea was for the trucker. Yankee Stadium for the banker. And certainly over the last 30 years, the Giants, like the Yanks, have been the more successful franchise than their Gang Green cousins and co-tenants. Moreover, there’s an aristocracy among Giants fans, from the name of its patriarch, Wellington Mara, to the way the teams and their fans conduct themselves.
So it’s a bit surprising, if not alarming, that the Giants these days are acting like teens in reform school. You have Odell Beckham Jr.’s obscene TD celebration — a most elastic use of the word — by getting on his hands and knees, like a dog, then lifting his right leg, as if to urinate on the Eagles’ end zone. A week earlier, tight end Evan Engram celebrate his first career touchdown by grabbing his crotch. Then you have reports that Brandon Marshall spat on a Philly fan, a charge he strongly refutes.
Forget the win-loss record for a moment. Is this how the Giants do business? Tom Coughlin was hired long ago to bring a military ethic to the team. When his hand was deemed too heavy and he lost the pulse of his players, he mutated with the times and listened to a select few leaders to see how far out of touch he had become. And it worked.
Again, there must be a balance, or a difference, between the West Point precision and emotionally sterile ways of the old Coughlin system and now, where Beckham is not only the Giants’ best player, but also the chaotic face of the franchise.
This isn’t about the NFL’s longtime alternate acronym, “No Fun League.” Beckham and other flamboyant wideouts should keep their creative mores when they score a touchdown. But for some time now, Beckham seems to have lost the line between fun and offensive. Starting with his meltdown against Josh Norman two seasons ago, miming a marriage proposal to a kicking net, randomly crying on the sideline, his boat trip to Florida days before a playoff game at Lambeau — and his subsequent stinker during the game — and now his attempt at a canine relieving himself.
Does this place Beckham — who has shown no remorse for his latest actions, even after meeting with co-owner John Mara on Wednesday — among the more infamous miscreants in the sport? No. His antics are purely Page Six stuff, not splashed across a police blotter. No one doubts his effort or his desire to produce. But at what point does Beckham — who has implied he should not just be the highest paid wide receiver, but also the highest-paid player in the NFL — graduate from young, reckless kid to the unquestioned leader of the Giants?
If Beckham, who already has signed the richest sneaker deal in the league, replaces Eli Manning as richest player and implicit boss of Big Blue, then when does it hit him that he must conduct himself accordingly?
And where’s coach Ben McAdoo in all this? No one expects him to rule with the stone fist of his predecessor. But he’s no longer a rookie coach, a neophyte who still has to worry about winning his team’s respect. And after a lovely, 11-5, honeymoon season, he’s hit his first roadblock. And, at 0-3, it’s a big one. It’s silly to suggest he’s already on the hot seat, especially with the Giants, who don’t have the quick, corporate trigger other clubs have with coaches. But with one more loss this weekend, they could be wandering through a ghoulish season long before Halloween.
Beckham turns 25 in about six weeks, a milestone number in a young man’s life, and his absolute prime years as a pro football player. Someone has to grab him by the symbolic collar and drill some sense into the young man, who looks to be having too much fun on a losing team. A dancing captain of a sinking ship.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel