A Dallas man will wake up Monday morning and open the newspaper to find out that his Cowboys defeated the New York Giants 31-28 on Sunday night. He'll grin knowing that Dallas remains tied at the top of the NFC East with the hated Philadelphia Eagles. That the Cows host the Birds on Thanksgiving makes the victory over New York all the more sweet.
He'll read about Tony Romo's late-game heroics and Dez Bryant's passion. And somewhere in the story the writer will lend a few lines to a catch made by rookie Giants' receiver Odell Beckham Jr. But the G-Men didn't win, and so the reception, spectacular as it was, is a subplot for our reader.
Let's allow for a moment that the above scenario actually plays out. Somewhere this man exists, and maybe he's not alone. He doesn't have Twitter nor the capacity to stay up past 9 p.m. Is it so wrong to think that Beckham's catch gets severely downgraded because the Giants lost the game?
Most, I think, would argue that the play stands by itself. If the Cowboys lambasted New York 56-7, people would still talk about the catch so long as it provided the Giants' points.
There's something else at play here, though. Great plays need context. Often, they need a championship or playoff setting. Think about the Immaculate Reception, the Music City Miracle, David Tyree's catch, Santonio Holmes' catch or "The Catch." All happened in playoff games. All, essentially, made the winning difference.
Now think of the greatest regular-season plays in NFL history. What did you come up with? Antonio Freeman's "He did what?" overtime touchdown comes to mind. So does DeSean Jackson's punt return from "The Miracle at the Meadowlands Part Two." A highlight reel of Randy Moss leaping over defenders plays on repeat as well. The first two resulted in wins; the last is filled with catches from an undefeated 16-0 New England Patriots regular season.
Beckham's saving grace is that his play comes at a time when SportsCenter runs its Top 10 constantly throughout the day, and each momentous action from a game enjoys a three-part lifestyle on the internet: reaction, meme and hot take. The first two were fulfilled almost immediately. I'm contributing to the third as I write.
Yet, the context of the catch leaves me in a cynical mood. The Giants have become a bad football team in a matter of weeks, and like any other 3-8 club, most of what they do from here on out will be a nuisance to the general public. Beckham made a tremendous grab in a regular-season loss for a team going nowhere.
And then ...
I watch it again. I can't stop. I don't want to stop. Forget everything I said above. That's perfection, and perfection needs no context.
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