[Addendum: Since this was posted, there’s been controversy building about Cam Newton’s behavior in his post-Superbowl news conference. ]
* * *
Ah, the sweet pleasures of schadenfreude…
(Wait, sports fans aren’t supposed to be tossing out words like schadenfreude, unless it’s the name of some lower-level Austrian soccer club.)
For the two weeks preceding Superbowl 50 we’ve been inundated by countless stories meant to convince the masses that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is not only Superman but is the Second Coming of Jesus in an NFL uniform. Oh, and he’s going to cure Racism in our times by winning the Superbowl. (Never mind that there have been plenty of successful black quarterbacks before him, including those who have won Superbowls, and done so without Newton’s unadulterated hubris.)
But this isn’t about race.
This is about underdogs. And we always root for the underdogs. No matter their race, creed, color, religion, immigration status, ad infinitum.
And the entire media world had already crowned Cam Newton the King of the Superbowl. Even Vegas oddsmakers opened with Carolina as a 3 point favorite and then kept increasing the point spread to the level where you might as well have mortgaged the house on Cam winning the Superbowl.
But in Vegas, as in Life, sometimes things don’t happen as everyone thinks they will.
And sometimes, instead of getting the crown, the King loses his thrown.
Tonight in Superbowl 50 Cam Newton got his face stuck in the turf over and over again until we felt sorry for him. The Denver Broncos and their NFL-best defense ran Cam over, punished him, left him limping and during a very crucial play toward the end of the game when he fumbled the ball, Denver had him so scared he actually made a move away from the ball, leaving it for others to recover near his own goal line.
This single action by Superman Cam – after two entire weeks of front-page glorifying – was enough to make CBS announcer Phil Simms criticize the NFL’s MVP. Phil Simms, who has gone throughout this entire football season without saying nary a negative word about anyone, suddenly piped up and said Cam Newton was, well, chicken.
Lest you think this piece is some slant against a particular QB on a particular NFL team, well, no. Essentially, we believe Cam Newton is his own worst enemy, and he allowed the mirror of the media to amplify his ego – then the Denver Broncos proved it takes more than an over-sized ego to win a Superbowl.
And it must be said: Cam Newton is one of the most talented, most intelligent, physically gifted players in the NFL.
In stark contrast, just look at where ESPN’s top NFL analyst Jon Gruden’s favorite quarterback prospect from 2 years ago, the Cleveland Browns’ Johnny Manziel, is today: Running away from police helicopters somewhere in the Texas scrubgrass while his father pleads for someone to drag him to rehab.
Cam Newton has much to offer not only the NFL but all those who are influenced by the NFL.
Again. We’re for underdogs. What we are against is the media playing up any individual, setting up any person as the crowned king, be it Cam Newton, or the “aw-shucks” HGH-induced Superbowl winner Peyton Manning.
Next time we would hope any individual, including Newton, who saw the mass media setting them up as something they are not, putting them on a pedestal that is only there for the media to make more media money from, or using them to front a particular angle/slant the media is pushing at that particular moment in time, then they would pause, reflect, then practice humility, grace, and like any good team player, instead of talking about themselves, deflect the talk toward the good people around them who made their good fortune possible.
The media won’t like it. But doing the right thing pays off in the end. It might not pay off for the media, but the dividends will pay off for the athlete and for everyone else in their circle of influence.