God — and ESPN’s checkbook — paired Stephen A. Smith and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo for days like this.

We will go ahead and say it: Wednesday’s ESPN First Take segment on Odell Beckham Jr.’s free agency and his weekend airline debacle was the peak of sports television debating. We have reached the mountaintop.

Russo is out here asking the important questions. Why hasn’t Beckham just bought his own private jet? How can an unemployed NFL player be flying on American Airlines on a Sunday and therefore be unable to watch all the games? “They have an entertainment system! Not television!” he points out.

And what about the poor guy at the back of the flight who had to deplane in Miami because Beckham refused to put on his seat belt? That guy was delayed getting to Los Angeles and may have missed his connection to Tahiti? Or as Dog says it, TIE-HEAT-E.

Smith is more understanding. Beckham is about to sign with the Cowboys or Giants or someone else willing to “overlook the not fastening the seatbelt,” as Russo put it. The man deserves one more night out in Miami before he gets to work, Smith says. And so what if he took an Ambien before takeoff and forgot to buckle up?

“Who takes Ambien at 9:30 in the morning?” Russo asks.

“That ain’t a crime!” Smith said in regards to the entire situation.

But it sort of is?

“He broke FAA rules!” Russo counters. “They took him off the plane!”

Meanwhile, an increasingly agitated Marcus Spears is trying to have an actual football discussion in the middle. And Molly Qerim is heroically attempting to keep the train on the tracks.

God Bless America.

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James Kratch can be reached at

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.