After defeating the Washington Redskins 19-10 last week and eliminating them from playoff contention, the New York Giants turned their sights to their matchup this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
But some of the Giants’ players made a detour to Miami to celebrate the new year and to “clear their minds” before their big playoff game.
In attendance was superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., along with veteran wideout Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard. When asked about the highly criticized trip, Beckham had this to say, “We were going to [Florida] to get our minds right,” he told ESPN on Tuesday. “That’s what we we’re doing.”
Debate about the trip was sparked by a photograph showing Beckham and his teammates on a boat with other high-profile celebrities.
Now, we’ve heard the adage a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case a thousand memes would probably be more appropriate.
In the image, along with other videos posted to social media accounts, the Giants’ receivers are partying with musicians Trey Songz and Justin Beiber, and reports of Johnny Manziel also being in attendance surfaced.
Frankly, the optics look horrible. Six days ahead of the biggest game of the season and you choose to take a “quick” trip, to Miami of all places, with the Bieber and the walking PR disaster that is Manziel.
If I were a New York Giants fan, I’d have great apprehension about the trip. I’ve never met someone who goes to Miami just to clear their minds. We all know what goes down in Miami, and couple that with the fact that it’s New Year’s Day, plus they’re renowned athletes. Anything could happen.
Combine that with the fact that the Giants’ success this season has been largely predicated on their stout defensive play, while their offense (minus Beckham) has been more of a detriment than a complement.
I get it, the trip warrants heavy criticism.
But the idea that perhaps your favorite receiver(s) are going to occasionally frequent environments that are otherwise viewed as unsavory shouldn’t be a foreign concept. While that may come as news to some of you, I not only acknowledge that fact, but I’m also capable of emotionally processing it.
Now, I’d be the first to admit that me being 23 years old makes it easier. But you don’t have to be young or my age to relate to this issue. Once you accept that things change and evolve over time, handling your star receivers partying a week before the biggest game of the year becomes easier to swallow.
It’s a different day and age, with different players and personalities, and society has more access to the lives of these athletes.
Look, I hate to steal a page from Aaron Rodgers’ book, but everybody needs to R-E-L-A-X. The argument that if the Giants don’t win this game against the Packers, it will be because some of their players weren’t focused, or because they went to Miami, is flawed. Because if the Giants win, and win convincingly, nobody is going to point to the trip and say that’s the reason they won, or suggest that maybe they go to Miami before every game.
Let’s examine the facts of “Miamigate.”
Was it on their assigned team day off? Yes. Did anyone get in trouble with the law while there? Not to our knowledge. Did anyone show up late or miss mandatory meetings on Tuesday? No.
If the Giants are to pull out a victory on Sunday against the Packers, it’ll be because their calling card, which is their defense, got help from the same receivers who are now being scolded. However, if they are to lose, it’ll be because their defense didn’t show up or because they’re going against a supremely talented quarterback in Rodgers.
We have to relinquish this unrealistic, archaic way of thinking where we want people to behave how we see fit. It’s bad enough the NFL comes down heavy with their, at times, draconian rules and regulations; policing things such as celebrations and customized attire. The last thing we need in our beloved NFL is for fans, and to a large extent the media, dictating how players should spend their off day.
What’s next, are we going to start telling players how to spend their money?
Too late, we already do that.
On Sunday, regardless of who wins and who loses, I’m smart enough to know that it’ll be because the better team won, and not because of a trip that millions of Americans on average take a year.
But what do I know? I’m just a millennial.
And you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Marcus Lamar is a Washington D.C.-based sports journalist. You can check out his podcast “Marc My Words” on Soundcloud, YouTube and coming to iTunes soon. Follow him on Twitter @iam_marcuslamar.