Is hype surrounding Odell Beckham Jr. reaching a breaking point?
Is there a time when media exposure hits a tipping point and becomes too much of a good thing for someone? If so, the 2014 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year might be on the brink of it.
A quick Google search of “Odell Beckham Jr. NFL” on the Monday after the New York Giants' first game of the 2015 NFL season yielded approximately 10,500,000 results. A similar search for “Zach Martin NFL” — referencing the league’s 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up — spit out just 953,000 results. “Mike Evans NFL” showed a mere 2,100,000 results; this for arguably the second-most-talked-about wide receiver in last year’s class.
That’s a difference of over eight million searches in favor of the blonde-haired wonder who wears number 13 and speeds up and down the sidelines of MetLife Stadium catching one-handed passes from Eli Manning. To put it bluntly, that’s insane.
For comparison’s sake, try popping in a couple extremely well-known players into the equation. “JJ Watt NFL” generates some 8,300,000 search results, and he’s probably the most recognizable young player in the game. Watt, you’ll remember, also had the HBO series Hard Knocks boosting his popularity during the preseason.
Beckham, on the other hand, has a pretty funny spot with computer company Lenovo, but that series of commercials only appears online:
“Peyton Manning NFL,” meanwhile, returns 13,600,000 results—only two million more for the NFL’s biggest household name than Beckham. In other words, the OBJ hype train is headed straight to Crazytown. As Peyton himself might casually sing, “Noth-ing beats that roo-kie smell …”
Admittedly, while Beckham Jr.’s rookie season was a record-breaking romp that saw the 5’11”, 200-pound former LSU Tiger put up an average of nine receptions, 133 yards, and one touchdown per game over his nine games as a full-time starter once Victor Cruz went down with an injury (and after missing the Giants’ first four games of the season), it was his possibly-the-greatest-catch-of-all-time one-handed touchdown grab during a Week 12 Sunday night game against the rival Dallas Cowboys that made him not just an overnight sensation, but a bona fide household name.
Nowadays, though, you’d be in the vast minority if you didn’t firmly believe that the wunderkind will singlehandedly (see what I did there?) save the New York Giants from languishing slightly above that miserable Washington team in the NFC East doldrums.
And maybe he will.
Maybe OBJ will take the field for warmups with his red over-ear headphones, lay down in the end zone, and catch upside-down passes — like he did before this season’s Week 1 Sunday Night Football game — before lining up behind center, dropping back, and throwing himself bombs to grab with only one sticky paw.
All kidding aside, let’s make something completely clear: Beckham is an immense talent. He’s a super-athlete who is one of the best wide receivers in the game today (and may very well go down as being one of the greatest wide receivers ever when it’s all said and done).
His rookie-year stats (91 catches, 1,305 yards, 108 yards per game, and 12 touchdowns in only 12 games played) stack up as some of the very best numbers ever put up by a rookie wide receiver in the Super Bowl era. Some would even argue that Beckham Jr.’s season was the best ever for a first-year wideout.
But there’s absolutely no doubt that his monster year sits firmly in the top five alongside Randy Moss’ 1998 season (69 catches, 1,313 yards, and 17 touchdowns in 16 games), Anquan Boldin in 2003 (101 catches, 1,311 yards, eight TDs), Cris Collinsworth in 1981 (67 catches, 1,009 yards, eight TDs), Terry Glenn in 1998 (90 catches, 1,132 yards, six TDs, 15 games), and John Jefferson in 1978 (56 catches, 1,001 yards, 13 TDs, 14 games).
The folks that don’t think Beckham's year was the best ever for a rookie WR usually cite Moss in 1998 as the greatest of all time, but the lanky Minnesota receiver had a lot more help around him: Hall of Famer Cris Carter, Jake Reed, Robert Smith, and Randall Cunningham, just to name a few. Beckham basically did it all by his lonesome.
But has the hype train left the station a little too early? All because of one miraculous catch that just happened to occur in a divisional rivalry game with pretty much the entire country watching? Surely, the body of OBJ’s rookie season proves that he’s much better (and more talented) than one solitary catch, but can anyone possibly live up to the amount of hype and exposure that he’s experiencing in this short amount of time?
Since his immaculate reception, nearly everyone has played the Beckham hype game. Hell, even before the miraculous catch, the buzz about him was starting to build. Fantasy players, of course, were thrilled with his output, but even media types were starting to throw a fair share of hyperbole at New York’s wideout.
“When I watch Beckham play,” NFL.com’s Chris Wesserling wrote in a November story, “I can’t get the image of a 1980s era Michael Jordan out of my head.”
Comparisons to perhaps the greatest basketball player to ever live aside, the hype train went completely off the rails after the catch heard round the world.
Type “Odell Beckham catch” into YouTube and you’ll find at least seven videos with over 1 million views, and most of them aren’t even of his spectacular rookie season grab. His 2014 NFL Scouting Combine Highlights video, posted by the official NFL account, is sure to pass the million-views mark in no time (it’s currently sitting at over 950,000). Their official video of “the catch” currently has more than 850,000 views.
That’s a whole lot of eyeballs, and it doesn’t count the thousands and thousands of times that nearly every single broadcast news station, entertainment news program, and seemingly anyone that airs anything on TV in any way showed OBJ’s one-handed grab over and over and over again in the weeks after it occurred.
Shortly after his Oct. 19 grab, Beckham Jr.’s game jersey went on display in Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame. NBC’s Cris Collinsworth said, “That may be the greatest catch I’ve ever seen in my life,” and that statement became the growing sentiment from just about everyone who had seen it.
“The Catch” not only earned Beckham a touchdown, an ESPY and just about every superlative you can imagine, but it also, quite literally, made him a mega-star overnight. On the New York Giants’ interactive timeline of OBJ’s rookie year, they list the following staggering Twitter stats about the moment: 464,000 Odell Beckham mentions after the catch. 23,000 tweets per minute about the catch. And 688,000 mentions of Odell Beckham over a three-day period.
In December, reports surfaced about how he’s been texting with superstar athletes like LeBron James and Michael Jordan. In January, he’s named to his first Pro Bowl and appears poised to become the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Next thing you know, OBJ is reading Mad Men lines for a Fox Sports video. He’s hosting a “Suits and Sneakers” fashion show during Super Bowl Week. Vogue’s famously demanding editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, invites him to attend one of her runway shows. He’s landing a weekly radio show on ESPN NY 98.7 FM. He’s dazzling fans during Pro Bowl practice, a GoPro camera strapped to his chest. He’s setting a Guinness World Record live on ESPN by making 33 one-handed catches in 60 seconds during Super Bowl Week (a record which would later be broken). He’s winning the ESPY for “Best Play” in July. He’s on the cover of the Madden NFL 16 video game. He’s posing nude in ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue.” He’s on talk shows and magazine covers ad nauseam.
Later, HBO finds a way to shoehorn the guy into the latest season of Hard Knocks, even though he’s certainly not a part of the Houston Texans organization. (Pretty sneaky and clever to get him to play a little Madden 16 with his buddy — the true breakout star of the series this season — Charles James III.)
And, just when you think you’ve seen the last bit of exposure, you realize that the 2015 NFL is just about to start and you’re probably going to see Odell Beckham Jr.’s face everywhere again and again for the next eight months.
Despite all this, I quite like Odell Beckham Jr. His rookie season was an undeniably fantastic thing to watch. I think he’s going to be one of the best wide receivers the NFL has seen in a long time, if he isn’t already. And, by all accounts, he appears to be a nice guy and a great role model. He’s practically the total package.
But even I’m exhausted by seeing him in every magazine, advertisement, commercial, bumper package, viral video, and anything even remotely related to football in some way. Simply put, I’m done; I want off OBJ hype train. It doesn’t even have to stop to let me off — though slowing down would be appreciated.
Let’s keep in mind that football fans have seen meteoric rises in the sport before. Moss was a huge hit in his rookie season, but that was just before the Internet really took hold, turning every notable moment into one that would be played over and over again for eternity.
Maybe the closest thing to Beckham’s rise is the way Colin Kaepernick was hoisted into the spotlight during the San Francisco 49ers’ Super Bowl run in 2012 — but even that ascension pales in comparison to the media fury that has surrounded OBJ since “The Catch.”
So how can any player possibly live up to the massive hype that currently surrounds the Giants’ best player? Is it remotely realistic that he can be New York’s savior, and lead them back to being one of the NFL’s elite teams? Probably not. As they say, it takes an army, and right now, the Giants barely have a militia.
That being said, I don’t see the hype train slowly down any time soon (even without me on it). The conductor just blew past his last stop and he’s full speed ahead down the tracks toward (if you ask just about any Giants fan) Canton.
If you’re a football fan, prepare yourself for at least 16 weeks of seeing Odell Beckham Jr.’s blonde mop flash across your screen during every possible moment that his ratings-grabbing face can be jammed in there.
By week 7, you’ll probably be hearing about what he eats for breakfast before a big game. By week 10, you’ll have to listen to him describe “The Catch” just one more time, we promise (we don’t promise). By week 15, you’ll know the exact shape, color, and consistency of his bowel movements.
On the other hand, you’ll also likely see Beckham Jr. putting up solid numbers week in and week out, all while the lights get brighter and brighter and the chants of “OBJ” “OBJ” grow louder and louder.
I get the feeling he likes the sound of that.