Too many in sports media (or really in any media) believe that it’s not what you say but how you say it. Substance routinely takes a backseat to delivery; if it seems like someone knows what they’re talking about, the audience will often say, “Hey, that guy knows what he’s talking about.”
Enter former Ravens linebacker and soon-to-be Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. Appearing Monday on Colin Cowherd’s show, Lewis offered up a theory regarding the perceived struggles of Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. It’s not quite clear, however, what the theory is.
“Where there’s no God, there’s chaos,” Lewis said, via TheBigLead.com. “Odell has removed God from his life. This is a kid who grew up under the covenant of who God really is. And everything that he’s doing, he’s crying out for help.”
Lewis apparently had offered to help, and that offer had been accepted. Until it wasn’t.
“We have a lot of people reporting about it, but it’s always been the duty of elders to go back to help him,” Lewis said. “So that’s why I raised my hand. And I told him, ‘I’m here [for] whatever you need.'”
“So what did he say?” Cowherd asked.
“It’s not what he said, it’s the commitment he started to make. So we started to make those phone calls, we started to have conversation. And then I started to see [that] he started to distance himself a little more, a little more, and a little more. And the moment — just listen to me, Colin, I don’t care about religion, I’m talking about a foundation. When your foundation is disturbed, when everything you’re doing is the opposite of what’s got you to this place, then you’re making your own bed hard.”
Instead of saying, “What they hell are you talking about?” to Lewis, Cowherd seemed to agree, suggesting that Beckham’s “life is less football.”
“You show me your crowd, I will show you your future,” Lewis said. “Man, Justin Timberlake ain’t never played no football. I love Justin, but Justin ain’t getting out there on the ground like that. These guys he’s hanging out with, they’re in studios all night. They don’t have to get up, they don’t have no discipline when it comes to athleticism. . . .
“And when you see this, what Odell is doing to himself. First of all, I’m not gonna just gonna call him out, I’m gonna call him. See, a lot of people [are] calling him out. Disappointed in [him]. No, no, no. What I’m disappointed in is we had an agreement, as men. And the difference of me and everybody else, I don’t need nothing or want nothing from you. But when you tell me you want me in your life to help you, when you tell me that we will be accountable with reading our bibles and sharing scriptures . . . then you wonder why things around you start to happen.”
There’s a lot to unpack in what Lewis said. The root of the problem seems to be that: (1) Lewis at one point reached out to Beckham; (2) Beckham initially was receptive; (3) Beckham eventually began to drift away from Lewis; and (4) Lewis thinks that Beckham’s failure to fulfill whatever “agreement” he reached with Lewis represents the root of Beckham’s current problems. Because of course it’s about Lewis, not about Beckham.
All of this presumes that Beckham currently has problems. Where’s the proof of that? He’s never gotten in any trouble away from football (including but not limited to never pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation of a double homicide), and Beckham has associated with non-athletes from the moment he first rose to prominence in 2014. Apart from choosing to avoid the bulk of the team’s voluntary workouts last year and wanting to be paid for the value he brings to the team, what has he done differently in the past year than what he has done since his rookie year?
Yes, he gets emotional at times during games. It’s an emotional game. Yes, he enjoys the celebrity that flows from his football skills. But his football skills remain unparalleled. Yes, he wants to be paid $20 million per year. Yes, a video recently emerged that appeared to possibly show Beckham doing possibly something that a high percentage of football players do — smoke marijuana in their spare time.
The trade chatter from two weeks ago flowed from nothing Beckham specifically did but from the fact that Giants co-owner John Mara publicly bristled at questions about Beckham and his contract. On that point, Cowherd said that teams that did their homework about Beckham in advance of a potential trade didn’t like what they found. Though Cowherd didn’t mention any specific behaviors, he clearly implied that there was/is something unsavory that caused teams to shy away from trading for and paying Beckham.
None of this is fair to Beckham. Whether it’s Cris Carter or Ray Lewis, criticism from prominent former players could be rooted in the fact that Beckham has decided not to kiss the ring. Lewis specifically equates Beckham’s troubles to the fact that they made a connection and Beckham eventually ended it. Who’s to say that Beckham didn’t simply decide after some of their interactions that Lewis was making no sense and, in turn, providing no benefit?
Beckham remains a great player. The Giants have to ask whether they want to make a long-term financial commitment to him soon, or risk having him stay away from OTAs, training camp, the preseason, and possibly regular-season games. If they’re not willing to make a financial commitment, they should trade him to a team that will, and get what they can for him. Otherwise, the distractions will continue — whether originating with Beckham or with those who have tried to boost their own relevance by forcing their way into his story.