I Don't Like Mondays — February 8, 2016
If you’d like to calibrate how fickle is public opinion, ladies and gentlemen, then turn your attention to the cautionary tale of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. The Duke of Dab had a dream season in 2015. Long considered a major-league talent stapled to a minor-league disposition, Newton blew away those preconceived notions on his way to become the NFL’s MVP.
His combination of running and passing drove the Panthers to a 15-1 record followed by two dominating playoff wins over Seattle and Arizona. . Even more, he became a cultural avatar with his Superman guise, his dancing and his Man Child persona. His preppy fashion sense was followed by designers and retailers. When he gave away footballs to kids after his TDs he was to swoon for.
Surfing the thermals of adulation, Newton came into the Super Bowl against creaky old Peyton Manning poised to transcend the legendary QB as a media star. Untold riches awaited this offseason when the Panthers rolled over the Broncos, who’d barely squeaked into the Big Game.
Nice while it lasted. Which was about an hour. By the time he pouted his way out of the last media conferences, Newton had driven a Mack Truck through his carefully manicured image. It was one thing to get roughed up by the Denver defence. After all, his offensive line gave out more free passes than a Hillary Clinton rally.
His receivers couldn’t catch a cold. His running backs acted as if they were on a one-yard restraining device. The plays called by his offensive coordinator Mike Shula worked about as well as Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.
But Newton also gave every appearance of a man who was looking for the nearest exit. His body language said, No Mas. If this was leadership then let’s have less. When he coughed up the ball for the umpteenth time late in the game, Cam held back, letting his lineman chase down his mistake. Former Toronto Blue Jay Brett Lawrie summed up the lame effort in a tweet: “Wow cam newton don't be afraid to dive on the ball bro .... #WeakShitSon”.
In a monosyllabic press conference, Newton retreated to his previous incarnation as Sulky Baby, delivering perfunctory answers and then stomping out when it was suggested Denver might have disrespected his throwing ability. No wonder Broncos players on the other side of the stadium were claiming that Newton “tapped out” after a few bone-crushing hits.
Editors note: Newton's press conference was conducted in the same space as Broncos' cornerback Chris Harris, whose comments about Newton can be heard moments before Newton chose to exit the press conference.
Denver cornerback Alibi Talib mocked his “cajones” on TSN — even thought he didn’t know TSN from TCP. In short, Icarus had a softer landing than did Cam Newton on Sunday. There will be no invitation to host SNL (as Manning has done) or join Drake for a Raptors game in the playoffs. In the fame game of social media, Newton can only redeem himself one way: win a Super Bowl.
Fortunately the Panthers have a good enough defenders to allow him further shots at the crown. Getting receiver Kelvin Benjamin back might mitigate against the butter-fingered crew Cam suited up with on Sunday. Two offensive tackles who “stoppeth more than one in three” would help too. Poor Michael Oher (he of The Blind Side) will see Von Miller’s spin move in his nightmares.
Of course, Dan Marino always thought he’d get another shot at a Super Bowl, too. How’d that work out in Miami Dan-o? And Cam might not have a role in Ace Ventura to cushion his fall.
So next time you think that fame would be fabulous, look at the expression on Cam Newton’s face as he pitched his hissy-fit walkout of the presser. As the expression goes, fame isn’t something you’d wish on your worst enemy.
Unless you were a Bronco fan or had Beyonce stumbles during her halftime act in the pool, Sunday’s game was less than scintillating. Defence wins championships but it also turns off TVs. The suffocating defences of both Denver and Carolina squeezed the Wow out of Super Bowl 51 (I miss the Roman numerals a lot more than I’d miss Roger Goodell if his ass was canned).
So did the litany of mistakes and penalties accumulated by both squads. Sometimes the extra week’s rest makes for a better game. But this year it seemed to give the defensive coaches on both squads time to game plan the fun out of the contest. As well, Carolina lost its mojo in the extra time, its lucky talisman smashed in the interim.
As opposed to the one-deaf NHL (which has never met a 2-1 game it didn’t love) the NFL is hypersensitive about its offence. Scoring equates to stars which equates to more people lined up to pay for the commercials in the epic all-day show. So don’t be surprised if the league tweaks the refereeing or rules again to provide that next year’s game doesn’t send them snoring to the exits.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).