Last night there was a football game. Maybe you heard about it.
I live in the heart of Panther Country. That is, North Carolina. It’s been a rough couple of weeks because I’m a Manning Girl trapped here in Panther Country.
For me, there is my team, the woeful Cleveland Browns, and then there are a few players I am solid fans of: Peyton and Eli Manning (of the Broncos and Giants respectively), Eddy Lacy (of the Green Bay Packers), Philip Rivers (of the San Diego Chargers) and DeAngelo Williams (of the Pittsburgh Steelers, formerly of the Carolina Panthers). I never root against these guys. The Manning Brothers vs each other is one of my most difficult things.
Technically the Panthers are the hometeam but again, never rooting against a Manning.
BUT, since the Panthers are on a winning streak this year there have been lots of “new” fans in these here parts. Fans who never much cared but now were caught up in the fanfare and add them to the die-hards and well, I’m outnumbered. So for the last couple of weeks my facebook feed has looked like this:
That last shot is a real road sign in NC.
Anyway, I’ve taken it in stride the way a lot of Panthers fans have ribbed on Manning and how the Panthers’ quarterback, Cam Newton, has been a firebrand that has created strange bedfellows. I’ve seen friends who loudly decry “Black Lives Matter” and the “entitlement of minorities” join the Rainbow Coalition in saying Cam doesn’t get a fair shake because he’s Black. Strange bedfellows indeed.
The real showdown happened last night and the Broncos defense soundly defeated the Panthers 24-10. And after the game, this happened.
To say Cam was disappointed, well, duh. To say he could have handled it better, that’s an understatement.
Fans are disappointed too, but the lashing out I’ve witnessed from Panther fans takes it a step too far.
Yes, Cam is young. He’s 26, however, he’s still a man. It is not too much to expect him to behave like one. Dan Marino was on that stage at 24 and he didn’t walk off nor give mono-syllabic answers. Today, we don’t talk about Dan Marino never winning a Super Bowl, in fact, many mistakenly think he did win one.
Today we refer to former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly as “Kelly-strong” after his defeat of cancer and his work on behalf of his late son. Rarely does someone mention his four consecutive Super Bowl losses as the starting QB for the Bills.
Cam is young, so hopefully, he still has time to learn.
In the post-game analysis, former players Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin and Marshall Faulk discussed Cam’s interview. Faulk tried to defend Newton by saying that no one whose never been on that stage can be critical. Really? Like many of us haven’t had personal or professional defeats before?? That no one can be critical?? Wow.
Then when Sanders put the pressure on by saying this:
“You are the face of our brand right now,” Sanders said. “You can’t do that. I understand the emotions of losing. You can’t do that. A Manning, a Brady, all of those guys who have been prototypical [guys] would never do that.
“You can’t be dabbin’, smiling, styling and profiling when you win, so this is how you go out when you lose?”
Faulk responded by accusing Sanders (known for his own antics during his playing time) and Irvin and others of wanting Newton to be himself in triumph but be like “them” (Manning and Brady) in defeat.
Hold up. Wait a second. I don’t think Faulk thought that one out completely. He intimated that what we saw last night, the two-year-old going home with his toys, is who Cam Newton really is. If that’s so, congratulations NFL, you can my make my six-year-old your MVP next year.
Cam, buddy, I’m ten years older than you so let me tell you a little bit about the real world where people don’t get endorsements when they lose the highlight (to that point) of their career.
First of all, disappointment and broken dreams, they happen. Yesterday while you lost the Super Bowl, my dear friend Pat lost her husband. Another friend got news yesterday that the last-attempt treatment for her child’s illness, failed, she is watching her little one die slowly now. But life doesn’t stop or end when a dream is deferred, we move on and tackle the next mountain.
Second, life isn’t fair. You went into yesterday’s game knowing there would be a winner and loser. You ended up second best. When people say they don’t want their kids to get participation trophies, your performance off the field yesterday is part of the reason why. You are a father now, you have a son that looks up to you. He deserves to know his dad did his best and that his dad knows that his entire worth isn’t wrapped up in a Lombardi trophy. That old-guy you lost to…he’s lost twice before. That guy who got booed when the MVPs came out…he’s lost twice before too. You are younger than them and will have other chances. Think about those guys who came into the league with such promise and never got to play in a Super Bowl…life wasn’t fair to them either. Show your son in the future that losing with grace can happen.
Third, losing can teach you a lot more than winning can. You will never truly understand how strong you are or how sweet victory is until you have tasted the bitterest defeat. “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” You know who said that? The guy whose trophy the other team held up…Vince Lombardi. A lot of eyes were watching you last night. A lot of people are choosing now to remember the season you had instead of what they saw in that interview. A lot of people want to believe you’re a better player and man than what they saw last night and that you have the capability to learn from your mistakes on and off the field and can be and do better.
Look, losing doesn’t make you a loser. Bad behavior, poor sportsmanship, those things make you a loser. A lot of us are hoping you prove us wrong and that last night was a one-off. All eyes are on you Cam–your move.