As Washington cornerback Josh Norman prepares to face guys like Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant twice per year, Norman explains in an item for The Players Tribune the mindset that often results in acrimony on the field.
It traces, for Norman, to having his bologna stolen by older brothers at a time when Norman was too young and small to do anything about it.
“Football isn’t unfair,” Norman says. “Life is what’s unfair. Getting your bologna taken is what’s unfair. Football is barbaric. It’s animalistic. It’s my will versus your will. It’s all those things. But it’s not unfair. That’s why I love it.”
He then used that mindset to explain the protracted, out-of-control, back and forth between Norman and Beckham from last December.
“When Odell and I went at one another last year, people got mad,” Norman said. “Imagine that. People who watch this sport every Sunday and say they love it actually pretended to be offended. They don’t see the beauty in it. They don’t see the truth.
“The guy lining up across from me, he knows the truth. There are a lot of people who watch this game, or who are paid to commentate on it, who might not understand the true reality. They might get offended. They might think we’re animals.”
That’s where Norman’s essay is inconsistent. He calls football “animalistic,” but then takes issue with those who thought Norman and Beckham were behaving like “animals.”
The broader flaw in Norman’s argument is that football routinely is played without over-the-top misbehavior from players who took their aggression well beyond the whistle or who engaged in clearly unnecessary acts during a play. If 99.5 percent of all players can do it, Norman and Beckham can, too.
“Odell and I, we know the truth,” Norman said. “Anybody who makes it to this level knows it. The truth is that on the football field, he’s trying to steal my bologna, and I’m trying to steal his.”
That’s fine, but the officials — and the league office — will be taking everyone’s bologna this season if folks can’t control their emotions and confine the exercise of ill will to actions necessary to the overriding objectives of the game. It’s clear that the NFL won’t stand for a repeat of last year’s outcome, and it’s likely that the officials and the powers-that-be at 345 Park Avenue will be paying close attention to everything that happens between Norman and Beckham in 2016, and beyond.