The season is long and demanding. Sixteen games can sometimes get boring and mundane, when a team just keeps winning. That’s what the Carolina Panthers are doing. They keep posting W’s and taking no prisoners. But when the on-field drama gets stale, that’s when people look for things. Cam Newton seems to draw that attention. Being the leader of an 11-0 NFL team isn’t enough. People are looking for reasons to criticize Newton.
It’s easy to look at Cam Newton and think of him in negative terms. Why? Because he’s a physically gifted athlete that loves the game of football and isn’t afraid to show his emotions. When the Panthers drafted him, they were well aware of his character and attitude. But the funny thing is that everyone who judges Newton has been wrong. They see him in the light of what the media has created.
The mannerisms that he shows are often mistaken for bravado and cockiness. To be honest, if I possessed the skills that Newton has, I might get a little boastful too. But that’s human nature. He’s not obnoxious. Newton’s dancing and celebrations are just another way of showing his love for the game. Each week, there’s enough end zone antics and rehearsed touchdown choreography to make an NFL highlight reel. Do they still use that term? Why are the haters looking for Newton?
Here’s the real question to consider: Why is Cam Newton always the one to get the heaviest attention?
It seems as though every little detail of Newton’s life—on the field and off—is examined under a microscope and judged by people who don’t know him. In other words, the majority of those who either watch him play or get information about him are looking for negative press.
Carolina Panthers safety Roman Harper says he was guilty of reacting the same way. When he played for the New Orleans Saints, his perception of Newton was just as skewed.
“Before I got here,” Harper clarified, via the NFL Network. “I didn’t know him. But I thought he was selfish. I thought he was all about himself. Things like that. Before I got here, my opinion wasn’t that great, either. But that’s because I didn’t know him.”
That seems to be the consensus, among those who have nothing good to say about the Carolina QB. Watching him from afar, and deeply inhaling of the negative media slant, will undoubtedly shape how an outsider feels.
“I enjoy him coming to work every day and being the person he is,” Harper said. “He brings energy and life to this locker room. He is who he is. He has the juice when we need the juice. It’s good to have guys who are young and vibrant — guys who know it’s OK to be themselves.”
The persona that Newton has isn’t something new. It’s been a part of the NFL landscape for years. All one has to do is think of Chad Johnson, Bo Jackson, or even Deion Sanders. There’s a difference between being obnoxious and being confident. There also a line that must be drawn between animated personality on the field and humanitarian. Being in the limelight will make people see what they want to.
There was no lack of coverage on Newton, over the past Thanksgiving holiday. Twitter and Instagram were full of pictures and tweets of every move the high-profile signal caller made. That’s the price of being the quarterback of an undefeated football team. Suddenly, your life is on display for the world. One wrong move, and millions know more than they think.
“At the end of the day I do what I want to do, and I say that in all respects of what I stand for,” Newton explained, per ESPN. “I had a pretty good Thanksgiving weekend. It was good to be around friends and family.”
That’s how it should be. No matter what Cam Newton decides to do, his life will be on display and people will look for reasons to criticize. As long as the Carolina Panthers are on their way to the postseason and they keep winning, the media will be there. All Newton has to do is stay true to himself.
[Photo by Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press]