The New York Giants have Odell Beckham problems. Plural. The All-Pro wide receiver hasn’t scored a touchdown this season. He hauled in just three catches for 23 yards in Monday night’s loss to Minnesota. His on-field production hasn’t been there. Perhaps more alarming is the way his slump is manifesting into fits of rage and personal foul penalties.
Comments from quarterback Eli Manning and coach Ben McAdoo suggest there’s some discord within the locker room. Many want Beckham to take more personal responsibility. He seems more interested in making excuses.
After the worst game of his career, Beckham took to social media and offered a deep thought.
The quote is a stanza of William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus. Invictus means “unconquerable” in Latin. Henley wrote it after losing a leg to tuberculosis. Defiant resolve to overcome daunting challenges jump off the page. It’s commonly appropriated in times of peril.
What’s interesting about Beckham using it, though, is the closing stanza.
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
At its heart, the poem is about self-reliance and the importance of self-confidence. These are important traits for a football player to have during times of adversity. But Invictus is an odd rallying cry for Beckham to chant when the main problem appears be his on-field selfishness.
Giants fans should worry if Beckham’s answer is to double-down on the “me against the world” routine. Football is a team game and even the most talented of receivers are nothing without a quarterback to throw him the ball.
Now, it’s very possible that Beckham is not a student of Henley’s work. There could be no hidden symbolism in his tweet. There’s danger in going full English major and searching for meaning where there isn’t any.
What’s clearer is that reaching into the motivational bag and pulling out this particular poem is a sure sign things aren’t going well. Perhaps co-opting these well-read words will result in an epiphany for OBJ.
Whatever the outcome, it’s great to see poetry in the news. And especially this one because, well, it’s gotten tied up in some bad press before.