The concept of athlete beef has been reshaped by the sands of time. Older beeves tended to be a bit grittier and more genuine, partially because without social media it took a lot for them to explode into the public view. Those tales of old also trained the audience’s eyes, ears and nose to seek out beef as an added layer of entertainment. As sports and humanity evolve (or devolve if you ask me ha ha ha ha ha), so does beef.
We are now gifted with some feuds that would’ve likely amounted to less than nothing had they occurred a decade earlier. In the above video chronicling Josh Norman vs. Beckham Jr., Clara tells an incredible story about a beef in which the actual meat came from fans, media, awards rather than the athletes themselves. Outsiders fanned the embers of the feud and stoked them to the point where it was no longer about the athletes at all. It’s still delicious beef, but it’s a demonstration of how horny society has become for feuds.
That mindset can also ruin what could have otherwise bloomed into something spectacular and more aligned with the original concept of beef. Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t share a story before December 20, 2015 — they were simply two great players manning opposite positions. When the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers faced off on that week 15 day, the excitement of watching two greats face off quickly turned to animosity. Animosity turned to wrestling. And since wrestling’s not the sport they’re supposed to play, the result was clear to everyone watching: beef.
Unfortunately, everyone was watching. Fines and suspensions followed for the players, but money and time weren’t the only things taken from the duo. Their spat became so over-discussed that the media seemed to take control of the beef entirely. They made sure it haunted both OBJ and Norman, cooking it further with every interview given or appearance made. When Norman headed north and joined Beckham in the NFC East — well shoot, surely that would be like swapping out the grill in favor of cooking with napalm. But that’s not quite what actually went down.
There’s a version of the story between these players that gets a little lost. Outside parties attempted to amplify the actual rivalry that actually existed between Odell and Norman into something larger, inflating it into cinematic proportions. Is that a bad thing? It depends how you choose to look at it. No matter the path we took to get there, the result still was beef. It’s just another example that this beautiful concept can take many forms even at the same time.
Now give your fingers a workout, scroll back up to the top, and watch the video to see exactly what I’m talking about.