Things could be a lot different for Cam Newton today if he had played his postgame interview just a little differently Sunday night.
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It took just about three minutes — three childish, sulking, petulant minutes — for Cam Newton to completely undo all the goodwill he’d created this NFL season, giving ammunition to his army of critics and leaving his fans with little to say in way of a defense after storming out of his postgame press conference following the Carolina Panthers’ Super Bowl 50 loss.
That laughing, smiling, carefree quarterback we’ve watched all season? Evidently he was just an act, a byproduct of an undefeated record and an easy schedule. It’s been said countless times before — and by a number of analysts on television last night — but a man isn’t judged by how he handles his successes but his defeats. And in that way, Cam came up shorter in his "chat" with the media than he even did on the field.
He wore his hood up like he was hiding from the press. He looked down to avoid eye contact. He spoke in one- or two-word bursts, if at all. A firm "no" was the best he’d give. He acted like he was bored by the whole thing, with the only swagger coming when he’d angrily swat away questions like a kid in the principal’s office.
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This isn’t to say Newton needed to come out in alligator loafers with $1,450 Gucci pants and act like the previous four hours hadn’t happened. He should have been upset. He should have had bad body language. He’d just laid an egg in the biggest game of his life. What did you expect him to do, break out into song?
Frankly, I like that Newton cares about the game so much that he’s so mad about losing it. Give me someone who cares this much over someone who can brush off the loss quickly. Newton’s attitude, while untoward, is the kind a fallen champion needs to get back up off the mat. But to do it this way brings back memories of the brash college player, not the sublime NFL talent. He was closer to rookie than veteran after spending the previous 18 games showing that he wasn’t just an established NFL player but perhaps was the best in the league.
Poof — that’s all undone. Granted, the questions weren’t great, but it wouldn’t have mattered if Woodward and Bernstein had been asking them: Cam seemed to have made up his mind he was going to act like a child in the postgame.
No one expected much from him, the same way they don’t expect much from any losing quarterback. Put on some clothes, walk out, answer some stupid questions by expounding on the concept of "we played hard but they played better" and then get out of there. He could have been in front of reporters for the same three minutes, but if he had given real answers, looked them in the eyes and didn’t act like it was the greatest burden of his life to be sitting there at that exact moment, he wouldn’t have the PR disaster that’s currently befalling him.
The loss wasn’t all on Newton, not by a long shot. The Panthers’ O-line couldn’t block, the receivers missed the balls that were on-target, fumbles rolled into the arms of Broncos and Denver’s D was so stifling it’s amazing Newton could even breathe out there. But when you make the game all about you in the two weeks (and full season, really) preceding the game, you’re the only one they’re going to look at when the whole thing implodes.
And in that moment, Cam Newton, the most entertaining, garrulous and enjoyable player in the league, fell silent, a testament to his own immaturity and inexperience. The Monday morning stories should be about how Peyton Manning won his second Super Bowl, but once again, Cam Newton has managed to make himself the center of attention.