Norman v. OBJ: Why Are We Now Celebrating What Once Was a Football Disgrace?
News of cornerback Josh Norman’s new home in Washington broke a few days ago, and the sports media was all over it. That’s their job, to stay up to date on the latest news, including who goes where. But the media knows the public is more interested in Josh Norman than others.
Josh Norman is a cornerback who played for the Carolina Panthers, but after his franchise tag was rescinded, thus becoming a free agent for a few days, the Washington Redskins picked him up and he became the highest paid cornerback in the NFL.
But becoming the highest paid cornerback in the NFL is not the reason the public is so interested, and his talent really isn’t the reason either. The majority of the public would not really know who Josh Norman is if it was not for the 2015 December game against the New York Giants. This game paired up defensive cornerback Josh Norman against overnight superstar wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr, a.k.a. OBJ. The matchup was expected to be great since both players were bursting at their uniform seams with talent, but no one expected it to be that memorable.
One-on-one matchups can get heated since it is man-on-man all game long, and that is exactly what happened. It got heated. A struck match kissed gasoline.
Norman and OBJ went back and forth during the entirety of that Sunday night game. Jawing, shoving, wrestling… all more than a typical defense versus offense man-on-man matchup. All game long they increased their dirty yellow laundry count: OBJ with three flags, and Norman with one. For the finale, Odell Beckham Jr. launched himself -- leading with his helmet -- at Norman and made head-to-head contact, well after the play was over I might add. It was the most blatant foul anyone could have ever performed.
OBJ’s actions were not premeditated; Norman’s, however, were. Before the game, Panthers players taunted OBJ with homophobic slurs and a bat. One player walked up to OBJ during warmups on the field and riled him up, bat in hand. While Panthers players stated that the bat is a traditional item they use in practice for inspiration, they transformed it into a weapon when they approached Beckham Jr. and made comments about ending his career and swinging the bat at his knees. While it was different players, Josh Norman aided in the taunting as well.
The tactic obviously worked. They found OBJ’s kryptonite: you can easily get in his head. While OBJ definitely should not have reacted as such, the Panthers, Josh Norman included, should not have taunted during pregame then pleaded innocence once OBJ reacted on the field. All in all, it was a glorious display of bad sportsmanship.
During the game, the announcers dubbed it a disgrace to football. Which it was! Competition is part of the game, it is part of the reason why we love the game so much. But when it escalates too much is when it not only becomes a disgrace, but dangerous for all involved -- that is when it needs to be regulated.
Sports analysts and talk show hosts could not keep the incident out of their mouths, especially since the public watching the game wanted to know what is going on. Why didn’t they take either of them out? Especially with the concussion issue reaching a boiling point? Several speculations and answers have been given to address such inquiries, but the moral of the story is that neither the cornerback nor the wide receiver won that match up. Analysts, reporters, hosts, players, coaches, spectators, all agreed it was an ugly game.
Fast forward a few months and here we are discussing Norman’s move to the Redskins. Fine. Keep me updated ESPN, I like it. BUT. The issue of the matchup was brought up again as we survey the 2016-2017 NFL schedule. ESPN published an article titled "Get ready for Josh Normal vs. Odell Beckham Jr. twice a year” with the opening sentence of “Sometimes, the universe gives you gifts”, and the closing sentence “It doesn’t get a lot more fun than that”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as excited to watch this matchup as the next guy. I love football. I love the contact. I love the competition. What I don’t love is making heroes out of idiots.
So now we are celebrating this matchup? Why are we celebrating two players’ explicit disregard for the rules and beauty of the game? That’s something good to teach future NFL players: play passionately, to the point of severely injuring the other player because it will get you air time. Get in fights. Have a bad attitude. Play mean. No matter if you get suspended for a game or two, people will know your name and will want to watch you every Sunday from here on out.
I certainly celebrate talent getting matched up against talent. I do hope that both players have learned from their discipline (discipline that was not even that severe I might add), and that they will not ever have such a performance again.
The public likes trainwrecks: the more horrible and awful it is, the more we will watch it. But it’s unfortunate the media is going to fuel that fire. It’s unfortunate the media will change their tune after a few months have passed and the horror of it all has dimmed to merely exciting football. I do not like how the media is now celebrating this pair that was once disgraceful and a horrible example of football.
You can follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Molly_TX.