Cam Newton refused to jump into the pig pile after his own fumble. Then he refused to jump into the media pig pile.
In the postgame presser, Newton gave four one-word answers, a nod, and a Terminator-like “We’ll be back.” Nobody even asked him about motioning to pounce on the ball knocked loose by Von Miller’s strip sack with and then clearly changing his mind with about four minutes remaining in a winnable game. He stormed off the dais hiding under his hoodie. Like rethinking a dive onto a ball you fumbled, offering mumbles to the media that hyped you into something you weren’t all season requires a degree of cowardice—and ingratitude.
After offering “Got outplayed,” “Got outplayed, bro,” and “I’m done” to inquiring minds in the media, Cam Newton quit on the press. A few minutes earlier, he quit on his team. Nobody on Team Cam—and let’s face it, this designation includes both the Carolina Panthers and the journalists who cover them—dared admit it. But everybody knew it.
Clark Kent turned into Jimmy Olsen at the Super Bowl. The big, mobile quarterback got sacked six times, threw a pick, and fumbled twice. The last of these dropped balls haunts Newton not because the fumble necessarily cost Carolina the game but because it lost Cam Newton respect. To paraphrase Herb Brooks, he will take it to his grave.
Cam’s teammates—the ones on the field and the ones in the press box—covered for him. “We can’t turn this into the ‘What’s wrong with Cam Newton?’ show,” implored tight end Greg Olsen. “One moment doesn’t define what Cam Newton did, even though that moment was ugly,” Bill Reiter wrote at CBSSports.com. “What will define him, and that moment, is what comes next.”
No, what happened last night defines him. Ask Scott Norwood. What you do with 120 million people watching defines you more than what you do with 12 million people watching. A guy demanding the spotlight all season blinked when it shined brightest. He couldn’t take the pressure—Von Miller’s and the big moment’s.
We saw Thomas Davis play with a broken arm. We saw his teammate not risk extending his $100 million arm by picking up the pigskin he dropped. Cam’s not supposed to be the diva QB sliding before a linebacker comes within ten yards of him. He punishes defenders as much as the other way around. But the Denver Broncos broke him. Cam Newton stopped playing like Cam Newton. Then he started acting like him.
The man-child hailing from a generation raised on safe spaces, trophies for everybody, and video games replacing friends and fathers in teaching young men how to behave showed that he did not understand that one must cease being a whiner before becoming a winner. Is anybody surprised that the ultimate braggart victor behaved as a typical sore loser? Both behaviors work as the flip-side of the other.
Cam Newton offers demonstrative “first down” gestures when moving the chains, shows the “S” on his chest when scoring touchdowns, and dabs it up when winning games. He sulks, hides under towels, and blasts his headphones when losing.
He won with emotion all season. He lost with it last night.