The Internet has been on fire the last couple of days regarding Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and his Super Bowl performance during and after the big game. The memes were lit and the vitriol was at an all-time high. There were a lot of people waiting for Cam to fall, like salivating buzzards on a decaying carcass in the desert. They definitely got their chance to feast.
Highlights include habitual face-spitter and racist line-stepper Bill Romanowski chiming in to use Cam’s press conference meltdown as an opportunity to question Cam’s manhood, albeit in a slightly racist way. Rob Lowe also chimed in to throw stones at Cam. Unfortunately, Lowe forgot that he lives in a glass house consisting of that time he filmed himself committing statutory rape around the time he was Cam’s age.
I’m not here to defend what Cam did in that presser. It was very immature and incredibly disappointing, especially considering the way Cam has matured significantly on and off the field in the last year. But one has to admit it’s very peculiar how hard people are going at Newton for doing something that is not too uncommon among some players following the Super Bowl.
Walter Payton, regarded by many as the best running back in the history of the game, didn’t get the storybook Super Bowl he felt he deserved. He waited all his life and spent 10 years in the league trying to get to the Super Bowl so he could at least score a touchdown. During the Bears’ Super Bowl XX victory, they were up so much that the starters were pulled very early and Payton never got his chance to score. Do you know how he reacted to this disappointment? Did he man up, keep a high morale and celebrate reaching the pinnacle of the football world with his teammates? Nope. He sulked by himself in a broom closet and had to be coaxed out of said closet by team execs and gave post-game interviews similar to one Cam gave Sunday evening.
I bring this up not to disparage the late, great Walter Payton but to highlight the fact that one moment of perceived immaturity and frustration does not at all tell the full story of who a person is. More importantly, people shouldn’t be judged on their mistakes. What really matters is people’s actions after those mistakes are made.
Many people have seemed to forgotten that Newton’s opponent in Super Bowl 50, Peyton Manning, stormed off the field without shaking the hands of Saints players following Super Bowl XLIV. Seeing as the backlash behind that has been largely forgotten, I think it’s clear that people want to find any excuse to vilify Cam. Whether this be attributed to race, culture or just pure hateration, it just is what it is. Unfortunately, Cam’s actions at the post-game presser gave these people more than enough ammunition to do so.
We know that moment did not define Peyton Manning. He eventually went on to win another Super Bowl and have countless articles lauding him as a sportsmanlike god who went out the best way possible. Walter Payton bounced back to be regarded as a legend and have an annual humanitarian award named after him. If we don’t define Peyton by that moment of weakness in 2010 and Payton by what he did following Super Bowl XX, then why are we to judge Cam by this moment like it translates to who he truly is as a person? The real answer is we should not.
The bottom line is let’s not completely judge someone for their demeanor fresh off what was possibly one of the most disappointing and devastating experience of their life. There’s no need to connect dots where there aren’t any to connect. Not liking to lose does not negate the positive impact that Cam has had on the game and on the community of the Carolinas.
Cam has come a long way from his first few years in the league, and presumably has about 10 to 15 years left in his NFL career. This means he has ample opportunities to make what happened Sunday a stepping stone, a teaching moment that could potentially shape his overall legacy. His actions don’t prove that he is a worthless thug or a petulant child who pouts when he doesn’t get his way. It just proves that: A. Losing in the Super Bowl really, really sucks. B. Old habits do indeed die hard and C. We all just need to take a few steps back and let Cam learn from this on his own so that one day when all is said and done we can be able to look at Cam’s career as fondly as we look at the Payton’s and Peyton’s of the football world.