- - Thursday, September 22, 2016


The only thing that would make this Josh Norman-Odell Beckham Jr. Pennsylvania Dutch Death Match on Sunday better if both of them came out wearing jerseys that said, “He Hate Me” on the back.

As American culture continues to become Vince McMahon-ized, this Norman-Beckham feud reeks of the XFL days, when McMahon tried to make an arranged marriage of wrestling and football.

It failed, but perhaps only because, like many things McMahon has done, he was ahead of his time.

This will be the first time the cornerback and New York Giants receiver will meet on the field since their ugly encounter last season in week 15, when the Carolina Panthers faced the New York Giants. There was a scuffle before the game between the Giants and Panthers, several of whom had come out carrying baseball bats on the field, and then it escalated during the game between Beckham and Norman – three personal fouls against Beckham and two against Norman.

It has since become a war of words – even though Norman at one point since then has declared he is a conscientious objector to such a war — told reporters after the game, “I hope I pulled back the mask on who this guy really is.”

SEE ALSO: Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry again defends his use of Josh Norman

They’ve been working this since on social media and interviews. Beckham told GQ that “the reason that he’s become so relevant is because of me.”

Norman responded at a charity basketball game at the Barclays Center. “He’s relevant because of a catch,” he told reporters. “But we’re not going to go there. I’m not into the war of words.” Then, a week later, at Redskins training camp, Norman answered more Beckham questions. “He’s talking about me, but I’m not talking about him….I guess when a guy talks about you that much you’re doing something right.”

But then in late August, Norman came off the top rope with two Johnny Valentine atomic elbows. In an ESPN The Magazine interview, Norman said, “Everybody saw what he was. People from around the league were coming up to me afterward and saying, ‘He does that crap all the time.’ He lost so much respect from people for that little tantrum.”

Following that a week later were excepts published in The Charlotte Observer of a book called, “Panther Rising,” with more of the war of words he is not into:

“I’ll be honest. I don’t care for the guy at all. … Now don’t get me wrong, he’s a good player or whatever, but he’s not what he thinks he is. If you hit guys like that, if you completely jam them and shake them up, they can’t relate to that. So they start making excuses like, ‘Oh, he touched me.’ They don’t know how to respond because they never got hit like that. So me, every time I see him, I’m going to hit him in the mouth. I don’t care. Until he stops crying and (expletive).

“He just went (in the draft) in the first round and everything is handed to him,” Norman said. “He gets to New York. … He catches one stupid little ball, and everybody in New York (loves) this guy, because that’s the biggest amount of media in the world. … So all that went to his big old head, and for some odd reason he thinks he’s somebody that he’s not.”

There you go – the fifth round draft pick out of small Coastal Carolina is jealous of the media attention Beckham gets, because, in Josh Norman’s world, that appears to be currency.

How about the six catches and one touchdown reception Beckham had while losing his mind against Norman? Did that bother him as well?

This only hurts the Redskins, who will have a hard enough time functioning on the field at Met Life Stadium as an effective football team without the subplot of this WWE angle playing out. It will get attention, all right, the like of which Washington doesn’t need.

It has already became an issue about how the Redskins will handle the coverage of Beckham. Norman’s role on the field has already become a source of controversy for the team – questions about why wasn’t he covering the Steelers top receiver, Antonio Brown, in Washington’s 38-16 opening game loss, and why their $75 million cornerback isn’t covering the best receiver on the opposing team.

Will Norman be covering Beckham Sunday? The Redskins have danced around a report that he will be “shadowing” Beckham all over the field. Norman danced around it as well when asked by reporters earlier this week.

“Somewhere I saw a leak that says I’ll be shadowing him everywhere but the slot, but it’s kind of crazy because I didn’t get the memo,” he said. “I didn’t even know where he’s playing. All I know is I’m playing the left side of the field like the coaches ask me to do. Where that’d come from, I have no idea. Maybe you can tell me.

But that wouldn’t do. As the great ESPN 980 and former Redskins tight end Rick “Doc” Walker would say, it’s a manhood issue.

When asked if he wanted to cover Beckham, Norman said, “Heck yeah, why not? Shoot, man, that’s the competitor that’s inside of me, man. I don’t shy away from nobody. Oh my gosh, you go on Sunday, reeks and oozes with confidence. I don’t bow down to nobody or their thoughts of me. I try to make my own and when I do, I impose my will. I try to do that each and every time I step on the football field, no matter who we’re facing. So at the end of the day, you give me your best shot and I’ll take it.”

I don’t bow down to nobody. I impose my will.

Right out of the WWE manual.

The officials working the game have already been put on notice to pay close attention to Norman and Beckham Sunday – you know, checking for foreign objects and such.

There is likely no scenario, scripted or real, where the Redskins come out of this for the better.

⦁ Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

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