Under The Bleachers: The Cam Newton Conversation

Above: Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton
Under The Bleachers: The Cam Newton Conversation

There are a lot of people that want Cam Newton to stop dancing. They don’t want to see him “dabbing” or doing his end zone “Superman” routine. They’d prefer if he didn’t celebrate each first down he earns by signaling that the sticks are moving.

They want him to be more like Manning and Brady and Montana. They want him to be more of a leader and to play the position the way its “supposed to be played.” Essentially, they want him to be more like the prototypical white quarterbacks that are allowed to be fired up and show emotion because they do it in less demonstrative, less flamboyant, more accepted, less “urban” ways. But, this isn’t because he’s an African-American quarterback. They swear. That’s not what it is. It’s because he’s…

Make no mistake about it: it’s because he’s a 26-year-old African-American and it sure would be nice if over the next week and change leading into the big game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, people dropped the bullshit pretense and actually talked about this issue openly, honestly and with a willingness to listen to the other side and truly engage.

Because it’s really hard to listen to people say Newton isn’t a good enough leader when the Carolina Panthers are poised to play in the Super Bowl after Newton guided the team to a 15-1 mark in the regular season.

It’s difficult to hear them talk about all the things he doesn’t do when he’s the consensus MVP and coming off his most complete season to date. It’s challenging to listen to the criticisms of his celebrations and showmanship when innumerable players posture and gesticulate whenever they make a big play and very few of them catch even a modicum of the heat Newton does for dabbing and signaling first down.

There are real issues and talking points to work through here because in addition to his being a race thing, it’s also a generational thing and an evolution of the game thing and we should be talking about all of it, regularly, earnestly because it’s not going away any time soon.

Rather than pounding the desk demanding that these new players fit the old molds and “play the game the way it has always been played,” maybe some of these analysis and critics can recognize that it’s 2016 and the game and the athletes on the field have changed dramatically and the ways of the ‘80s and ‘90s and ‘00s are coming back.

By refusing to go deeper on this subject and look at in from any perspective besides “that’s not how quarterbacks are supposed to conduct themselves,” all the criticisms rings hollow to me because why do all quarterbacks have to carry themselves in a particular way?

Newton has had an amazing season and his team is one win away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and they’ve gotten to this point with “Cam being Cam” throughout 16 regular season games and a pair of playoff victories. You don’t have to like it, but he doesn’t have to change it and that’s the part I really don’t understand.

Why does Newton have to be more like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Joe Montana? Why can’t he keep being the projected MVP and the leader of the best team in the NFL this season; the guy that brought his team to the Super Bowl?

If you don’t want to talk about those questions with some depth and willingness to hear the other side, maybe don’t bring up all the things Cam does wrong and needs to change this week.

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