Grumpy Cat returned last night in the person of Cam Newton.
Remember a couple years back when the Carolina Panthers quarterback, after each team loss, would skulk along the sidelines late in the game or in post-game press conferences, a towel draped over downcast head? After last night’s Super Bowl loss, it seemed like déjà vu all over again.
There was Newton, hoodie over head, face forlorn, answering reporters’ questions with as few words as possible.
“We got outplayed.”
The flashy shoes, the Madison Avenue smile, the Versace pants — all gone. And in response to one particular question, he finally got up and walked off the stage.
Someone tell our media friends that they are allowed to be critical of Cam Newton’s performance in Super Bowl 50 & his press conference.
— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) February 8, 2016
I get it. After playing through one of the best seasons in NFL history, Newton and the team suffered a disappointing loss (hell, we all did), so no one expected Newton to be up there on the post-game podium grinning and dabbing. But good grief, man; buck up and show some courage and leadership!
Instead, what Newton showed us after Sunday nights 24-10 loss to the Broncos was a lack of maturity, the kind we thought we’d seen the last of in this his fifth season in the NFL.
— Larry Elder (@larryelder) February 8, 2016
Marshall Faulk, the former Rams star, said Newton would learn from his actions.
“I’ve been on that podium in that very same seat,” Faulk was quoted as saying, reflecting on a Super Bowl loss as a player with the Rams. “It’s tough. It’s hard. When I look back at how I handled it, I promised to never be that person again. And Cam is gonna learn from this. Not just as a person, but definitely as a athlete. For some people, just like me, just like Cam, losing is hard. You can talk to whoever you want to, but until you’ve lost this game and sat on that stage and you had those feelings in you, you have no idea how it feels to get peppered with questions about how you played, how your team played and what woulda, coulda, shoulda. Talking to Cam does no good right now. When Cam watches this, he’s gonna learn from it.”
Deion Sanders said that Newton, the league’s new MVP, made a huge mistake by walking off like that.
“You can’t do that,” Sanders said. “A Manning, a Brady, all these guys that has been the prototypical quarterbacks in our league…they would not do that….You’re opening yourself up for more criticism. Everybody’s going to say, ‘You’re dabbin’ and smilin’ and stylin’ and profiling when you’re winning. So this is how you’re gonna act when you lose?’”
“Unfortunately, now we have to talk about Cam Newton’s post game press conference instead of the game” – @MGolicJR57
— ESPN Radio (@ESPNRadio) February 8, 2016
Sanders is right, of course. Newton has done his image (and the team’s impressive season) a great disservice. But all is not lost. His leadership and the team’s level of play over the last 12 months give Panthers fans reason to believe (or certainly hope) that this year’s Super Bowl run was not a fluke. With a little luck, they’ll be back before not too long.
As for Cam, I’ll credit last night’s post-game sulk to the maturation process of what I hope will some day be a Hall of Fame quarterback. For some of us, it simply takes longer to grow up.
But I would offer him this piece of advice ahead of next season: Hold back a bit on the “dabbin’ and smilin’ and stylin’ and profiling” until you’ve truly established yourself on the field as a league elder. Humility makes victory all the better, and it certainly sweetens the bile we taste when life forces us to swallow those inevitable disappointments.