In his second year in the NFL, Odell Beckham Jr. has already accumulated a career’s worth of jaw-dropping highlights.
On Sunday, the Giants wide receiver hauled in a routine, 22-yard reception against the Jets that he somehow plucked right out of midair, with one hand, on an Eli Manning pass that should have sailed well over his head.
But practically before the Jets secondary had even brought Beckham to the ground on that very same play, a handful of critics had already sounded off against Beckham and de-legitimized the catch completely, all because Beckham wears gloves when he plays.
This glove-related backlash seems to take place just about whenever Beckham winds up on Top Plays for a catch, which is increasingly often. After the most famous play from Beckham’s rookie season — the catch against the Cowboys that Cris Collinsworth called the best catch he’d ever seen — Hall of Fame receiver Tim Brown said that Beckham’s catches need to be appreciated in a different light because of the sticky gloves he wears.
“The guy’s a freak of nature, no doubt about it, I’ll give you that. He has the big hands and all that,” Brown told the LA Times. “But those gloves are so ‘tackified’ these days that that’s part of the reason you see guys making those kinds of catches.”
On Tuesday, Beckham sat down with Business Insider at MetLife Stadium while promoting his relationship with Head & Shoulders, and offered his thoughts on the NFL’s great glove debate.
“You know, your quarterbacks are throwing forty miles per hour in a spiral,” he said. “When you go without gloves, it doesn’t feel good when the ball hits your hand a certain way. The gloves are really there to help with the friction. They don’t make you catch a football.”
If they don’t make you catch a football, at the very least they help. Beckham is the first to admit that.
“They definitely could help you, if you got the right ones on,” he said. “But I could never give credit to my gloves for something that, you know, I sit there and practice doing. Like I said, [gloves] definitely help, but I don’t think [they are] the ultimate decider.”
As it currently stands, the NFL’s rules on gloves go as follows:
“adhesive or slippery substances on the body, equipment, or uniform of any player” are not allowed. Sticky gloves like Beckham’s are permitted, provided that “such tacky substance does not adhere to the football or otherwise cause handling problems for players.”
The NFL has gone on record and said it plans to take a close look at whether the gloves should be outlawed, or more heavily regulated.
“I think it’s time to go back and look at the gloves and see if, with what’s going on here with sports science in the past 10 years, if there isn’t too much of an advantage being gained,” Rich McKay, the President of the Atlanta Falcons and the chairman of the league’s Competition Committee, told the LA Times in August.
When asked if he ever thought about going without the gloves, Beckham told Business Insider that in certain circumstances — mostly weather-related — he has ditched the gloves and opted for his bare hands.
“I’ve gone games without them,” he said. “The Tampa game, the Seattle game last year I went without them.”
(A cursory Youtube search shows that against the Buccaneers during Week 9, Beckham only briefly went barehanded during a rainy portion of the 3rd quarter, during which his defender intercepted a pass and deflected another, before Beckham put the gloves back on for the 4th quarter.)
Old-school NFL players who feel strongly about the gloves seem to forget that at the end of the day the NFL is another form of entertainment, and that gloves help increase the entertainment on display. Collinsworth summed it up nicely when he told the LA Times, “It’s an entertainment business. Why not make it as entertaining as possible?”
But the debate is ongoing, and as the weather drops it will only pick up momentum.
“No one looks at those gloves,” longtime NFL commentator John Madden
said. “I saw them when I was at a meeting in Indy. They passed them around and somebody made the comment that, ‘Pretty soon, these gloves are going to be able to catch a ball without a hand in them.'”
Madden is, of course, characteristically hyperbolic. But as our conversation wrapped up, I offered Beckham a hypothetical not far from Madden’s of a sticky glove without a hand catching a ball. I said to Beckham that it wasn’t as though wearing the gloves would allow me to catch an Eli Manning pass.
“You’re right,” he said.
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