Odell Beckham Jr. earned my respect today. Hear me out, I know he has a reputation as a diva — and personally, I think it’s well-deserved. That’s not to say Beckham isn’t an outstanding football player; he just seems like the kind of guy who craves media attention, despite the fact that he’s already getting it. But Beckham’s comments this week in regards to Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict have earned the receiver a soft spot in my heart.
While being grilled by the New York Post’s Steve Serby about Burfict — a guy he frames as “the NFL’s dirtiest player” — Beckham responded in an incredibly surprising manner: he didn’t give the media what it wanted to hear.
“I’m very aware of who he is and where he’ll be at on the field,” Beckham told The Post. “I don’t want to sit here and say he’s the player that everybody’s trying to box him to be, I’m sure he’s not that guy.”
As the Post put Beckham through the cliché ringer about Burfict’s “antics,” as they call it, the receiver responded as if Burfict was just another guy on the field:
“Once somebody gets labeled something, it’s hard to get out of that anyways,” Beckham said. “Once you get put in that box, there’s no really getting out, ’cause it’s always gonna resort back to that. He could turn into a modern-day Buddhist, and still, one little incident, he sneezed on somebody wrong, and he’s back to being a dirty player.”
Of course, Beckham knows a thing or two about trying to escape a reputation. He, as previously alluded to, has been trying to escape the “diva” moniker, though his approach to doing so — hugging and later fake proposing to the kicking net he once embarrassed himself with — could use some work. Regardless, it’s refreshing to see one player empathize with another and challenge public opinion on a controversial topic.
As the New York media continued to berate the receiver in regards to Burfict and the linebacker’s reputation, Beckham’s response was unwavering.
“One thousand percent,” Beckham said on whether he will be aware of Burfict in the middle of the field. “I’m aware of anybody when I’m going across the middle. You don’t really want to take any of those [hits].”
Notice how Beckham clarified that he’s aware of every single opponent, as he should be. Yet of course, the media framed his statement as if he’s prepping for an opponent who is trying to decapitate him. Former Bengals teammate Leon Hall also chimed in when asked about Burfict:
“I love Burfict; that’s all I got for you,” said former Bengals teammate Leon Hall, now a Giants’ defensive back.
“I just like him as a person,” Hall said when asked why he loves Burfict. “In general, I like him as a football player. I’m sure he’d like to have some things back, but that’s what makes him as good as he is.”
Calm, resolute responses from Beckham and Hall — to the point where the Giants, who were previously one of my least-favorite teams in the NFL, are growing on me more and more.
The New York media, however, is not. Serby makes me want to bring back my Horrible Headlines column and just nitpick his articles one-by-one. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who began his column writing Burfict “all but tried to decapitate and did concuss Antonio Brown in the playoffs,” added the notorious “Vontaze Burfict’s Dirtiest Plays” video midway through, titled it “How the Giants plan to prepare for the NFL’s dirtiest player” and, worst of all, ended the column with this:
Nobody’s perfect. But nobody’s Burfict.
Lame. But let’s save that for another day. For now, it’s just time to appreciate Beckham’s empathy, as it’s an emotion most media members don’t seem to have nowadays.