If you are a football fan looking for any other similarities between Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, suffice it to say that you will not find many. Manning is the face of the league and seems to be on his way out. Meanwhile, Newton is the cementing his position as the new face of the NFL.
Do not be alarmed, nostalgic NFL fans and football romanticists, but the new sheriff in town likes to smile, dance, and hand footballs to kids when he scores a touchdown. Cam Newton has his detractors, and many believe that race is the reason for it. Just in case you have been living under a rock these days Newton is black, and he happens to play quarterback.
While some people believe that race plays a role in what makes Cam Newton such an enigma in the NFL, it is his unparalleled athleticism at the NFL’s most important position which makes him stand out. That, along with the fact that he is from a different background… and the much-ignored generational gap between him and many fans.
Imagine if your child got into a certain type of music, are you going to be quick to dismiss it? Would you give it the same credence as you give the tunes from your heyday?
Of course not. At least not right away. Your music is the epitome of entertainment in your eyes and you would want to share it with your children by calling it “good music”. Just as you would dismiss your children’s favorite songs, you would do the same thing with a sibling that you are more than five years older than. This the equivalency of Can Newton playing quarterback in the NFL.
To put it in another perspective, if your generation embraces Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player ever, guys like LeBron James and Stephen Curry could never enter your discussion. This is the difference between Can Newton and Peyton Manning.
After five seasons in the league, fans and detractors alike are still trying to fit him in a box. And not just any box, but one where most quarterbacks go, which would be the leader of the team, who behaves like a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Success must be digested in moderation because – as the quarterback – as he goes, so does the team. Those who have set these unwritten rules on quarterback comportment are used to seeing players such as Peyton Manning lead the huddle on Sundays. Cam Newton, at 26 years old, is 13 years Manning’s junior.
Manning is among the average age group that regularly watches the NFL. Hence, one explanation for the backlash Cam Newton receives when he does the “Dab,” among many other dance moves.
In 2013, the website Opendorse released a listing of demographics for every major sports league. The age group of viewers who were between 35-54 were ranked highest with 34 percent. The 35-54 age group has a dominant voice when it comes to sports radio and television.
So when the average football fan sees Peyton Manning mildly celebrate after throwing a touchdown pass, there is no fuss. Simply put, Manning and the average football fan are around the same age. It is easy for them to accept the future Hall of Fame QB for what he has done on the football field. They have essentially grown up right along with him. And since Manning is not much of a celebrator, more even keel by nature, he rubs the average football fan the right way.
As for Cam Newton, the average NFL fan may not agree with his exploits. That is because the quarterbacks that they have become accustomed to watching handle their business the way that Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and others do. Many of the well-known quarterbacks of the NFL are 30-somethings. Of the eight quarterbacks to reach the NFL Divisional round, six of them were 30 and older. The two omissions were Cam Newton and Russell Wilson.
Wilson, who is also black and athletic as a QB, does not deal with the same amount of scrutiny as Cam Newton does. That has everything to do with the fact that the Seattle Seahawks’ defense mitigated any of the growing pains Wilson has had to endure. For Cam Newton, everything begins and ends with what he does on the football field. As he joyously leads the offense, the defense, albeit a stout defense, chugs right along with him.
While some will still insist that much of the Cam Newton backlash is due to race, consider the age dynamic as the main factor. There were complaints about Cam Newton dancing in the endzone. It went as far as a Tennessee woman, Rosemary Plorin writing a letter to the editor of the Charlotte Observer. In the letter, the woman criticized Cam Newton for his “arrogant taunts”and “pelvic thrusts.” She went on to say that he is expected to be a role model.
Reading her heartfelt letter, one has to ponder; how much football does she watch on television? If she is an avid football viewer, she will have noticed that gyrations are unfortunately a part of the package. Also, she will remember that it was a group of Tennessee Titan’s players who were taunting Newton first, prompting him to respond in jest. Without knowing what is said on the field during the heat of a contest, Newton’s best retaliation was victory; his overzealous celebration served as icing on the cake.
One also has to wonder how many times the woman has watched Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers play.
How much about him does she know?
Does she realize that he gives a football to a random kid every time he plays?
Did the Tennessee mom know about the six-year-old kid who received a game ball (courtesy of the Washington Post) from Cam Newton just days after tragically losing his father?
If she was unaware of Cam Newton’s charitable exploits, a rebuttal from the Charlotte Observer shed some light on them. Among the things mentioned was Newton showing up in an ice cream truck to visit an ailing young child.
The woman’s outrage had little to do with race, and more to do with the huge generational gap between her and the objection of her frustration, Cam Newton. This is a mother of a nine-year-old, and she is no doubt among the 35-54 year-old age group. Watching a player from Cam Newton’s generation takes some time to adjust to if you are not used to watching this generation of NFL players coming up.
Cam Newton is of a different breed, a fact that is not lost on him is the fact that he is black. Being black could add extra pressure on him to succeed because there are other black quarterbacks, athletic and not, in the college and high school ranks. His success will weigh heavily on other black signal-callers with similar traits getting an opportunity to improve on their abilities. This is a weight which his counterpart, Peyton Manning does not have to endure. The burden of being bested by the new face of the NFL is on his mind.
Many of the 30-somethings will be firmly in Peyton Manning’s corner, and the younger generations may be cheering for Cam Newton. Why? Because at 26 years-old, a younger generation of fans can relate to him. Look for the NFL to cash in on Newton’s relatability with a younger audience as he takes over as the new face of the league beginning with his coronation at Super Bowl 50.
For those who believe the battle between Cam Newton and Peyton Manning will be a subtle game of black and white, you are wrong. Cam Newton versus Peyton Manning is a game of new school versus old school. The fact that they are NFL quarterbacks is where all similarities begin and end.
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)