I had the opportunity to capture the full game experience last Sunday at the MetLife Stadium for an all out civil war battle between the north and south NFC teams, the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers.
This was an anxiety-ridden competition, filled with high energy tempers and hard hits. I was on the field for pre-game warm ups and what I saw was a lot of showboating and a virtual light show from Odell Beckham Jr., the target of much controversy for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Panthers' cornerback Josh Norman.
As an educator, journalist and sister to an NCAA referee I can say with much confidence that referees have as much to do with the landscape of a game as do the players and coaches. When refs let things go or turn a blind eye to incidents on the field or simply miss something multiple times or even one time, tempers get heated followed by behaviors that take away from how the game is meant to be played. "We all know that the personal battles have no presence in the game of football, not at any level," Coughlin said, echoing the message he said he gave his team in Monday's meeting. "They're a distraction. They break concentration. They prevent the great game of football from being played as a team, team sport," stated ESPN following Sunday's match up.
I was on the field, as I mentioned, I did not see anything out of the ordinary except that I have changed my feelings for Beckham Jr. after seeing his "light up" cleats and his cocky showboating. Now, I realize that there is a lot of adrenaline out there and players look to psyche themselves up so that they play at their maximum potential. Between music, and fanfare and a lot of testosterone, it's an energetic forum. Here's the video I took from my vantage point.
Now, I did not see any bats, but apparently they were there according to ESPN's Adam Schefter and other videos and still shots that have surfaced from the pre-game warm ups. My problem is the assumption and gossip around the bat or why the bat was on the field before the game. According to Schefter's Facebook post:
"In pregame warm ups, at least one Panthers official, and possibly more, carried black baseball bats on to the field and were motioning with them towards Odell Beckham Jr. while making comments to him, per a league source. Norman later grabbed the black bat and was swinging it in pregame warm ups – which, by the way, an NFL Films camera captured. Beckham, according to another source, felt threatened and it helped put him in a certain frame of mind. It does not excuse what he did during the course of the game, but it does explain what led up to the battle that still is the talk of the league today."This is not reporting; this is hearsay and opinion. The Carolina team has apparently carried a bat or two on the field with them all season. So, MetLife Stadium was not the first or last venue to see bats on the field. According to the NFL, "Tension between Beckham and Norman brewed long before kickoff, with NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reporting that OBJ had to be separated before the game from Panthers practice squad player Marcus Ball, who was wielding a black baseball bat that Carolina players tend to tote around during warm ups. Ball reportedly handed the bat to Norman at one point, leaving Beckham to supposedly feel threatened. The NFL on Monday was also looking into that confrontation."
Symbols of success, winning, motivation and drive are not new to football or sports in general. Sure, a bat could mean that you want to give someone a beating, a team a beating, or you want to drive home a win. Shoes that light up like laser pointers could mean that you are going to run all over the opposing team, drawing attention to your lightning-like feet or swiftness of your body. Clearly there is a difference in might and power between light up shoes and baseball bats, but I think the whole game has been blown way out of proportion. You can't blame tensions on baseball bats; you have to blame it on the context of the game itself. And that's part of the sport.
The game was heated; it was going to be heated. Each of the teams is vying for a win; the Panthers are on a 13-0 season and the Giants are fighting for a playoff spot. Tensions are going to be high. I honestly go back to my original theory that the refs need to control the energy on the field, the players and their coaches. I saw no attempt from the refs to do that; instead they fed into the unwieldy atmosphere and missed calls. I think Tom Coughlin said it best when he stated, "There are qualities that Odell Beckham, this young man, bring to this football team the likes of which I've never seen. He has great energy. He has great enthusiasm. He gives great effort. He does it literally every day that he walks out on the field. I will not defend his actions yesterday, because they were wrong and this particular franchise and organization does not tolerate that. But I will defend the young man, and the quality of the person. I will defend him as long as I am able."
That's our take on the incident as we synthesize reports from various sources, including our own, from the field and stands of the game on Sunday. Take time to let this all sink in and then let us know your thoughts!
--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff Writer
BYB Hot Stove & Senior Writer
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