By Julian Martinez
Super Bowl 50 didn’t go as expected by many. The Panthers came into the game as the favorite and left Santa Clara in disappointment following their 24-10 defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos.
Yet the big headline coming out of the Super Bowl wasn’t the game but rather what happened after. The NFL’s Most Valuable Player Cam Newton, after perhaps playing his worst game of the season, was not ready to deal with the post-game press conference.
Newton was asked question after question and it was easy to see in his body language that he would rather be anywhere else but at that podium. At one point he even snapped at a reporter, saying “They just played better than us. I don’t know what you want me to say. They made more plays than us, and that’s what it comes down to.”
The day after, even that night, social media criticized Newton’s integrity as a player, a man, and as the league’s MVP.
It begs the question: why?
Newton had undoubtedly his best season as a pro and one of the best seasons in NFL history coming into the game. Between the regular and postseason, Newton accounted for 50 touchdowns using his arm (38 passing touchdowns) and legs (12 rushing touchdowns).
He led his team to a franchise record 14-0 start with scraps at wide receivers such as Ted Ginn and Corey Brown. Newton’s best wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, who caught nine touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards in his rookie season, was out all year following an ACL tear in the preseason.
So why doubt this man’s MVP status? Take a look at the man. Newton is no stranger to controversy. Back in his Auburn Tiger days, Newton had to tangle with rumors of NCAA rule violations, thanks in large part due to his father, Cecil. As a pro, though, Newton has done nothing to warrant the ridicule he so often receives.
Does he celebrate? Yes, he does, but it’s so easy as fans to forget that these guys are getting to live out their dream. This isn’t just some mundane nine-to-five job for them, this is something that they grew up as children wishing they could do. If many of us had the opportunity to score on the biggest stage of them all, would we not be thrilled?
I would argue that Newton’s theatrics are the best thing to happen to the game in years. Whether it’s the dab or the Superman, it adds a certain spice that has been missing from what is starting to become a stale product following recent rule changes that interfere with the game many fans fell in love with.
Newton has made so many young fans’ day this year simply by giving them a football, acknowledging that he appreciates them watching and many of those fans leave Panthers game as lifelong fans. Many years later they will say, “I remember when I got to see Cam Newton play.”
Critics of Newton are the same ones who are praising Peyton Manning for being man of good character. However, it was merely six years ago, following a 31-17 Super Bowl loss to the Saints, that Manning, in an equally poor display of sportsmanship, failed to shake a single hand of a Saints player or coach.
Newton, when addressing the press conference, said “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”
You can’t argue with the man’s logic. Cam has done too much good for the league to be judged on what probably was the worst day of his life. The bright side for Newton is that he is merely 26 years old. Following Super Bowl 50, his best wide receiver should be back and ready to go next year, and the Panthers’ defense is set to be just as strong a unit. Vegas has the Panthers as a 10:1 favorite to make another run at next year’s crown.
I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Cam Newton on football’s biggest stage.
Julian Martinez may be reached at Jmartinc@NMSU.edu
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