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Evan Neal #73 of the New York Giants looks on following an NFL football game between the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Giants at State Farm Stadium on September 17, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.
Michael Owens/Getty Images

New York Giants offensive tackle Evan Neal posed a philosophical as well as mammalian question yesterday, and got the answer he thought he didn't need.

The question: So why would a lion concern himself with the opinion of a sheep? The answer: When the lion is told to be concerned. Somewhere David Attenborough is smiling at the new way nature defies itself to explain itself.

Neal is guilty by association as well as by deed in that the Giants currently stink across the board. They are 1-3 with only a field goal-difference win over the equally abominable Arizona Cardinals, who to their credit are at least trying to lose. Worse, they are 0-2 in their two primetime home games, losing by an aggregate of 64-3. Worser than worse, they are 0-4 against the spread, which the NFL will soon designate as the first playoff tiebreaker in an homage to their gambling overlords. And Neal, ranked 39th among the NFL's tackles in obstructionist activity by Pro Football Focus, is catching his share because in New York the Giants were supposed to make the Jets feel worse than they already do about Aaron Rodgers, and instead are demonstrably worse.

The problem is, he listened to the sheep as they booed ... well, baaaa-ed is probably more what he heard ... and decided to hit back at the annoying flock by first urging them to boo louder during Monday's 24-3 capitulation to Seattle, and then sharing his thoughts with NJ.com's Darryl Slater and other members of the media the sheep routinely read and listen to.

"Most critics really don't understand the game of football to the level that we understand it in this building," he said. "So why would a lion concern himself with the opinion of a sheep? The person that’s commenting on my performance, what does he do? Flip hot dogs and hamburgers somewhere?”

So now we have sheep who can not only consume and react to media but also bet the games, and can even work as short-order cooks? These are ovines with clearly out-of-the-pasture skills who are not to be irked. And yet ...

“Because that just further shows that people are fair-weather,” Neal told Slater. “A lot of fans are bandwagoners. I mean, I get it: They want to see us perform well. And I respect all of that. But no one wants us to perform well more than we do. And how can you say you’re really a fan when we’re out there battling our asses off—and the game wasn’t going well—but the best you can do is boo your home team? So how much of a fan are you, really?”

Well, sheep have feelings too, and more than that, so do Neal's supervisors, who surely reminded him not that sheep are not the prohibitive underdog to lions in all circumstances, but that the sheep pay ridiculous levels of money to those supervisors, which means that sheep also understand modern American commerce. Sheep are damned clever, when you add it all up.

Whatever the motivation, whether it was conscience or a call from the office, Neal backtracked before he stepped in any more messy ground-based obstacles than he already had.

“I am wrong for lashing out at the fans who are just as passionate and frustrated as I am,” Neal wrote on Twitter. “I let my frustrations in my play + desire to win get the best of me. I had no right to make light of anyone’s job and I deeply regret the things I said. We are working day in and day out to grow as a team and this was an unnecessary distraction. I apologize.”

In sum, we now have the answer to the question of why a lion should concern himself with the opinions of a sheep. The answer is clearly "When the boss says so." So in a year in which the Giants should not be looking down at any opponent, we'll call this a big win for the sheep.

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