On Sunday afternoon, two dynamic, unstoppable forces will collide at Heinz Field and attempt to settle, once and for all, which will go down in history. I mean, of course, that the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. will face off against the Steelers’ Antonio Brown, a meeting between two players who have become the faces of their respective teams, the NFL’s wide receiver position, and the entire fantasy football community. Both are superb athletes in the midst of successful seasons — Brown has 998 receiving yards to Beckham’s 915, good for third and seventh in the league — and both have thoroughly tested the limits of the No Fun League.
Before they take the field in Pittsburgh, let’s take a step back to compare the duo in the categories that have mattered most* (*the opposite) since they commandeered the spotlight. It’s wide receiver vs. wide receiver, twerker vs. twerker, Joker vs. Bigfoot.
Brown keeps dancing, most recently in the Steelers’ Thanksgiving Day victory over the Colts, when he and running back Le’Veon Bell danced together (and promptly received a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct). For his troubles, Brown was awarded with a spot on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars earlier this year.
Beckham has moves, too — the LeBron James celebration and an assortment of other bobs and shimmies — but there’s just no getting around that this game belongs to Brown, who has paid little notice to the fines he’s racked up in the process: In September, he said that the fines were “nothing to a boss.”
Use of On-Field Equipment
After Beckham was viciously attacked by a kicking net in Week 3, he decided to capitalize on the publicity. In the ensuing weeks, he continued his relationship, giving the net a smooch and some quality horizontal time.
In October, he got down on one knee and asked the net for its … string? … in marriage.
Last season, Brown celebrated a punt-return touchdown by running full-tilt at a goal post and leaping onto it crotch-first, which did not immediately look survivable but apparently was.
Disrespect to the Forces of Gravity
Both players have shown a remarkable ability to suction hurtling footballs out of the air with stray body parts. Here’s Brown cuddling a ball away from Malcolm Butler in 2015. Here’s Beckham making a one-handed windmill grab in practice. Here’s Brown catching a ball dropped by a drone.
And then, of course, there’s that catch, in which Beckham, then a rookie, corralled a touchdown reception with one hand while arcing backward like a ballerina on meth. Brown is not to be ignored — a pair of his gloves already reside in the Pro Football Hall of Fame to commemorate his 600th catch, a mark he reached faster than any other player in NFL history — but it’s Beckham’s feat that will be remembered generations from now.
What stylistic statement does a professional football player have to make for you to drop a photo into your group text message thread from college? Wearing extremely goddamn weird cleats might do the trick, and that’s something at which both Beckham and Brown have excelled. In October, Brown wore cleats honoring Kimbo Slice and José Fernandez; he’s also worn cleats featuring images of his children, Antonio Jr., Ali, Autonomy, and Antanyiah; Muhammad Ali; and Arnold Palmer. It’s become enough of a thing that Sports Illustrated ran a feature in November on the artist responsible for designing the kicks.
Last season, Beckham antagonized then-Panthers cornerback Josh Norman ahead of their soon-to-be-infamous face-off by wearing cleats and gloves emblazoned with images of the Joker. (Norman likes to refer to himself as Batman; they earned a combined five personal fouls during that matchup, and Beckham was suspended one game for delivering a helmet-to-helmet cheap shot.) Beckham has also worn cleats featuring Dexter and blood spatter.
But Brown gets points here for his erstwhile Tetris hairdo, because: holy shit. (This, of course, was just one of many hirsute adventures for Brown; see also his mohawk and a possible Bigfoot sighting.) Also notable: Brown’s space-themed Rolls-Royce, which he told the Jets’ Brandon Marshall that he would be willing to wager this season over who would finish with more receiving yards. Marshall’s quarterback remains Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Beckham has made no secret of his interest in other sports. He’s a regular at charity softball events (he met Drake at a game hosted by the rapper, whom he later lived with while Drake worked on Views), and has trained with Bayern Munich’s Xabi Alonso and Tottenham’s Erik Lamela. He has said that David Beckham was a childhood idol.
But who can forget the kick seen (felt?) ’round the world? In 2014, Brown attempted a hurdle. Unfortunately, he did not quite make it, and instead karate-kicked Cleveland punter Spencer Lanning in the face.
Last week, Colts punter Pat McAfee asked Brown to promise not to kick him in the face in front of his mother. In response, Brown wished her a happy Thanksgiving (and did not drop-kick her son).
There you have it: Brown wins, three to two; business is booming. But Beckham is the son of Odell Beckham Sr., the real-life high school running back from Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream who helped defeat Odessa Permian. So I’m calling it a draw.