A young player from New Orleans, Odell Beckham Jr, stole the show on Sunday night with a three-fingered catch that will intrigue for years to come
This is an NFL season with deep flaws and jarring inconsistencies but there are enough moments of redemption to keep the wheels turning.
None of the teams have been able to achieve a true pattern of domination — they’ve all had their low points which either means there’s a degree of parity or a dip in quality. Meanwhile, the less salubrious tendencies of some of the players have received more airtime than the top brass can cope with.
Not that I have any sympathy for the well-compensated suits on Park Avenue who worry about these things every day. But the long hours they’ve been putting in while putting out the PR fires do occasionally pay off when their players produce something magical and inexplicable.
A young player from New Orleans, Odell Beckham Jr, stole the big show on Sunday night with a three-fingered catch that will cause confusion and intrigue for years to come.
Practice made the New York Giants wide receiver’s night perfect when — in front of the biggest television audience of his fledgling career — Beckham Jr scored an outrageous touchdown which — even more interestingly — his old college coach and team-mates at Louisiana State University swear is just the tip of the iceberg.
They do things bigger and with a more flamboyant edge in New Orleans, and in nearby Baton Rouge, where LSU’s Tiger Stadium is one of the most spectacular and imposing arenas in any sport. It’s more commonly known as Death Valley and the coach Les Miles is nicknamed the Mad Hatter.
Beckham Jr spent two years at the alma mater of his father, a close friend and room-mate of Shaquille O’Neal who apparently get a very Shaq-like kick out of putting the then toddler son of his buddy in the palm of his huge hand to raise him up to the rim at the basketball court.
Big hands is now what the grown up NFL rookie is best known for and they’re an astonishing pair of assets for someone whose height is average or maybe even below average for a wide receiver; he stands at just 5’11 but has freakishly large 10 inch hands. By comparison, the most physically gifted player at his position in the NFL is Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions, who is six inches taller but with marginally smaller hands.
The proportion is all wrong and the contortion abilities he possesses go some way to explaining how he managed to astonish with his first half touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in what was ultimately a defeat for the Giants.
As luck would have it — although luck is the wrong word in this context — Beckham Jr was practicing the craft he mastered during the warm-up in the Meadowlands on Sunday. NBC made this the theme of their pre-game hype of the player. In an interview with him, he attested to how he practised it relentlessly. It was just a tool in his armour, he explained before going out and doing it when it mattered.
“Some receivers have rare ball skills,” Les Miles told Sports Illustrated. “But anyone who has coached Odell, played against Odell, worked out Odell will tell you his ball skills are exceptional and rare. We saw in practice. We would stop and watch these one-handed catches Odell... would make in practice. Let me tell you, it was nothing you have ever seen in other players. That’s why... teammates would say today, ‘We have seen this before’.”
In the second or so it took for quarterback Eli Manning’s 43-yard pass to rainbow into the corner suddenly occupied by Beckham Jr and his marker, Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr, the Giants player had managed to not only stay upright in spite of the illegal close attention from Carr, he managed to rise above his opponent, arc backwards as much as he could (which was quite alot) and then — unable to see the ball any more but having already made the quick calculation of the path of the pass by the time it was over and behind his helmet — he made it stick with just three fingers. Touchdown and decades of notoriety secured.
“One hand was the only way to get to that ball,” he explained afterwards.
Tomorrow, about 40 million turkeys will be carved across the US for the annual Thanksgiving celebrations. Three decent NFL games will carry full bellies through the evening lethargy.
But most thankful of all will be the administrators of America’s most lucrative sport who can this week hang their hat on the once-in-a-lifetime abilities of the new New York hero from the Bayou.
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