By Jason Keidel
» More Columns
Going back to Mike Tyson, or Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, we’ve seen how stardom can split the soul of a young man. Especially in Gotham, the media vortex of the world, a metropolitan fishbowl of nearly 13 million people.
It’s easy to judge people who ruin their fame and fortune because we will never be in their alligator shoes. But let’s be honest, if any of us were given the chance to be 24 years old, and live in the world of fawning fans, private planes, and velvet ropes, we’d eagerly grab it.
In other words, the high orbit of Odell Beckham Jr.
But the fact that we’re not doesn’t mean any critique of him is a muted form of hating.
Whether it’s the nature of his lot in life or his spot on the gridiron, we can all agree that the wildly gifted wideout is a different breed. Maybe it’s the glaring solitude of his place at the long end of the line of scrimmage. Maybe it’s the magnetic charm of those who do it. Maybe it’s their inherent, flamboyant style. Maybe it’s the fact, despite being from the middle of the field, they need to be at the center of attention.
There’s no doubt Beckham is not only a superstar, he very much wants to be one. From his spellbinding plays on the field to his wild white mane to his eclectic style to his electric smile, everything about the young man says, “look at me.”
And why not? In the new world of social media, when being or becoming famous is its own vocation, a new slot on the W-2, Beckham has mastered the art of attention. And since he’s the latest in a growing line of me-first wideouts who will flick on his own camera after the others are turned off, we simply accept his conduct as inherent or inevitable.
It would be silly, if not absurd, to compare Beckham to Doc, Darryl, or Tyson, though he does have a tattoo of Tyson biting Evander Holyfield. But while Beckham is not testing the limits of the law, he is crawling out onto his own eccentric branch, which is about to snap under the weight of his narcissism.
We all know about the Love (or Bong) Boat trip in January. Beckham thought it was a great idea to fly down to Miami, and kick it on a small yacht, snap the requisite shirtless photos, and party hearty days before a playoff game. No, sir, no better way to harden your hide for the Frozen Tundra in January than to hang with tarpon over sultry green waters.
Sure, little would be made of it had the Giants won and Beckham balled. But neither happened, which invites — if not demands — the correlation. Beckham stunk it up in Green Bay, the Giants got dissected by Aaron Rodgers, and thus Beckham’s reputation as a diva who plays hard to a point was intensified.
We all make mistakes, and we’re all allowed a mulligan, as long as we don’t repeat them. But here we are, again, with Beckham back on Page Six for getting his dance on at some velvet-rope affair, not long after he injured his ankle and right before he was declared ineligible for the season-opening game because of it. And it wasn’t some silly number we all do in the shower. Evidently, Beckham got his Deney Terrio on, doing a dance-off against Russell Westbrook during a live performance by Fugees frontman Wyclef Jean in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
Maybe Beckham should spend more time working with Eli Manning, or his position coach, or his offensive coordinator. Because Kim Jones tweeted a chilling stat that requires the team’s attention. Several teams, including Houston, Chicago, and Washington, are tied for the second-longest streak in the NFL scoring fewer than 20 points, at two games. First place? The New York Football Giants, who have gone seven games without breaking 20 points.
Especially when you’re as obscenely gifted as Beckham. When you’re spending way too much time on Page Six, not the back page. When you’ve had a public meltdown on the field, and mimed a marriage proposal to a kicking net. And especially when you’ve implied that you should be the NFL’s highest-paid player.
All of Beckham’s issues can be fixed. But just as we often say a young man has to grow into his body, Odell Beckham Jr. has to grow into an adult. You can’t demand the cash and cachet and big-boy trappings of celebrity when you’re still acting like a teenager who’s only willing to be responsible when it’s time to sign a sneaker deal. Being a professional is about the sweaty weekdays of practice, about hours under the horizontal cone of a projector’s light, about running routes when no one notices.
Before Beckham can demand the sport’s highest pay, he should at least help the Giants score 20 points. And save his dancing for the next touchdown he scores, which will be his first in 2017.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel