If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

Cam Newton dejected

The Carolina Panthers were a machine and force to be reckoned with for the majority of the 2015-16 season. Cam Newton, their quarterback, alone was able to run the ball so well if he didn’t hand it off or find an open receiver. Going into Super Bowl 50, they seemed unstoppable.

And yet, somehow, they were stopped. In fact, they were made to look like a shadow of who they had been throughout the season. The pomp and attitude that had marked them, their celebratory dances and gestures were nowhere to be found while they watched their chance at a championship slowly fade into the California sunset.

Throughout the game, the ordinarily bouncy and boisterous Cam Newton seemed tired, reserved, frustrated, and unsure of himself. His confidence wasn’t there and it seemed as if someone had handed this “Superman” his kryptonite. His joyous celebrations were nowhere to be found because there was really nothing for him to celebrate

After the game, his comments were short. His usually verboseness was nowhere to be found. He seemed agitated that he needed to sit there and answer any questions at all from the media, almost like a child being forced to sit and take their punishment. Not far off from where he was sitting could be heard the celebratory cries and shouts of the Denver Broncos, the team that had bested him for the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy. With all this swirling around, Newton cut the interview short by getting up and walking out on the reporters.

Some critics have charged that it was his duty and responsibility to answer any and all questions that the reporters had of him. I’m not so sure that I agree with them. They thought his attitude was bad (which it kind of was) and that he should have answered the questions asked of him instead of getting up and walking out. He was accused of being a sore loser.

Newton has since come out and admitted to being a sore loser, because if you find someone who is content in losing, then you’ve found, he claimed, a loser. He quoted Vince Lombardi himself by saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Remember the movie “Bambi” and the title character’s friend Thumper? Remember what he told his friends? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all!” I think it’s pretty good advice, advice that Newton most likely took to heart himself. In his moment of frustration and weakness, I think he inadvertently embraced that very phrase for reasons of self-preservation.

I know what it’s like for me to be in emotionally charged situations. I’ve come to points where I’ve needed to embrace my own need for restraint. It’s a hard thing to do. Passionate people react passionately. As a friend and colleague often says, there is a shadow side to all of the strengths that we have. While Newton’s passion and leadership shined throughout the season, that same passion and leadership could get him in trouble should he not curb it in a heated moment.

Cam Newton is 26 years old. In our culture, it seems that we expect more and more from those who are younger. We expect them to do things we never did at their age, to act differently and more mature than how we acted when we were their age. Some might even say that we are asking them to grow up faster than we did. Sure, he’s making millions of dollars, millions of people are watching him throw a leather ball around, but he’s human, no matter how superhuman he may have claimed to be throughout the season.

Going into Super Bowl 50, I was not a fan of the Carolina Panthers. I’ve grown tired of all professional athletes showboating when they perform well, and my disdain for it certainly carried over Newton and his Panthers. It helped that the quarterback which he was up against had always handled himself with professionalism and grace. But that quarterback was also 13 years his senior and had far more experience than Newton has had.

Only time will tell what Newton learned from this beating, only time will tell whether he learned a valuable lesson in that beating. Time alone is the test of the lessons that we all learn and how well we learn them.

There’s no denying that Cam Newton has talent, the kind of talent that makes rivals hate him for just how good he is, but in the humility area, he’s got a long way to go, or so it seems. I say, give him a break, let him learn through experience, in time, we’ll see just how good he is at learning valuable life lessons.

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