I’m sick of the “Cam Newton is evil” nonsense. I know I’ve written about this before, but as the nonsense continues, I feel compelled to write again.
First off, I readily admit that I am the biggest Carolina Panther shill in existence. I’ve been in Charlotte since 1988 and as soon as the Panthers franchise was born, I severed my lifelong ties to the Raiders and went all in with our local team. Everything I say is covered in black-and-blue bias. I not only own it, but I embrace it. I will defend my team in almost any circumstance (outside of obvious criminal and/or ethical lapses, of course). As such, I’m always having to scream in defense of my team’s quarterback.
Not only am I a Panthers fan, I am also an Auburn fan. I started rooting for them back when Bo Jackson was playing there. My college didn’t have a football team until 2013, so I was left to root for Bo’s school. And of course, being an Auburn fan means pure hatred of all things University of Alabama Crimson Tide. This is the most bitter rivalry in all of sports, high school, college or pro. I laugh at people who call Red Sox-Yankees the greatest rivalry in sports or Duke-North Carolina as the greatest college rivalry. Hogwash. Compared to ‘Bama-Auburn, Yankees-Red Sox and Duke-UNC are playground fights between two 10-year-old girls over a purse. My father lived in the Huntsville, AL area for 25 years. I’ve spent just enough time inside that state to see how intense the hatred is, and get caught up in it.
The annual game is called the Iron Bowl, in recognition of the iron and steel mills that were the mainstay of the state economy at the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 19th century. The Tide has dominated the rivalry for the most part. The high point of the fight for Auburn fans was 2002-07, when Auburn won the game 6 straight years and saw the 2004 team go undefeated but get robbed of playing the national championship game (though whether they would have beaten a mighty USC team is certainly up for debate). After 2 Iron Bowl losses and a coaching change, Cam Newton appeared on the Auburn campus for the 2010 season.
If you have managed to miss the Cam Newton college saga, here is the Reader’s Digest version. He signed with Florida in 2008, backing up Tim Tebow and forming a strong bond with QB coach Dan Mullen. During the season, he was caught with a stolen laptop, which he threw out of his dorm window in a panic. He was suspended by head coach Urban Meyer, and later decided to leave. He spent a year in the Texas wilderness playing for Blinn Junior College, leading them to a national championship, then readied himself to go to a major program. By this time, Mullen was the head coach at Mississippi State, so Cam really wanted to go there to be with his mentor. However, on the advice of his father Cecil, Cam instead enrolled at Auburn. Cam led Auburn to an undefeated season, and a victory in the national championship game. But early in the season, it was discovered that Cecil Newton told a middle man at Mississippi State that it was going to cost them money – $180,000-$200,000 – paid under the table for Cam to sign the letter of intent. The Mississippi State told Cecil to go pound sand. But unbeknownst to Cecil, the Mississippi State reported the demand to the NCAA.
This is where major holes appear. Just about everyone not connected to Auburn University tried to connect the dots by concluding that if Cam’s dad demanded money from Mississippi State, and Cam was playing at Auburn, that was proof that Auburn had paid the Newton family the $200k. This is obviously far from proof; it is just circumstantial evidence that wouldn’t stand up to much scrutiny in court. As you would expect, Crimson Tide fans grasped the theory the strongest and screamed it the loudest. You could hardly blame them, as their school was emerging from 2 decades of turmoil – running back Gene Jelks ratted on his own teammates who received illegal payments. Mike Price was named head coach but never got to coach a game before he was nailed frequenting all the strip clubs in northern Alabama. Two other Coach Mikes, DuBose and Shula, coached the team to previously unprecedented levels of mediocrity. Auburn fans reveled in these down times, and the Newton controversy was Tide fans’ chance to get even. But with social media now a big part of everyday life, the “Cam is getting paid to play at Auburn” narrative became far more pervasive than anything the Iron Bowl rivalry had ever seen.
The NCAA bought in as well, launching an investigation. It would last nearly a full year before it was closed with no sanctions, citing lack of evidence. After being rebuffed by Mississippi State, Cecil had simply advised Cam to go to Auburn, thinking that would be the end of it, not suspecting that Mississippi State would turn him in. Despite the NCAA not being able to uncover any evidence that Cam was paid while at Auburn, the masses refused to let go of the story. You would think that Cam had committed murder and gotten away with it the way people carried on. Cam declared for the NFL draft after the national championship. Jaded scouts that had gone all-in on the false narrative allowed their scouting reports to be tainted, giving low ratings because “his smile appears to be fake,” as if that had anything to do with whether or not he could throw a football or read a pro defense.
He was drafted #1 overall by the Panthers, and set just about every rookie quarterback record there was. The problem was, the rest of the team wasn’t very good. In both 2011 and 2012, the Panthers were 2-8 after 10 games, eventually finishing 6-10 and 7-9. Cam had not lost a game he had started since he was in high school. He didn’t take this losing well. While the defense was on the field, he would go to the end of the bench by himself, throw a towel over his head and refuse to gather with the rest of the offense to make adjustments. He did badly with the media as well, coming across as pouty and whining in post-game interviews. When the Panthers started 1-3 in 2013, rumors circulated that new GM Dave Gettleman was preparing a list of potential candidates to replace head coach Ron Rivera. The Panthers were 14-22 with Rivera as head coach and Newton as the QB at that point. But then the light bulb turned on for everyone. The team won 8 games in a row and won the division, finishing 12-4 before losing their first playoff game to a red-hot Colin Kaepernick and a stifling San Francisco defense (SF would go on to lose in the Super Bowl). Under a barrage of injuries, the Panthers fell to 7-8-1 in 2014, although the Panthers still won the division as Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay all also had down years. The Panthers won a playoff game before falling to eventual Super Bowl winner Seattle. In 2015 it all came together. Cam won the MVP award, the team won its first 14 games en route to a 15-1 record, and went to the Super Bowl. Along the way, Cam started doing the dab and other end zone dances. He still struggled with the press, but with the winning it seemed a minor issue. Unfortunately, another world-class defense, this time from the Denver Broncos, provided the brick wall to the Panthers sports car. With 4 minutes left in the game, the Broncos lead was only 16-10, but the Panthers were facing a long third down deep in their own territory. Only 1 drive the entire game had resulted in a touchdown. The Broncos defense was from another world. Everyone wearing black and blue knew this game was done. There was no chance we were going to go the whole field against that group. Cam went back to pass, was hit and fumbled the ball. The beaten QB made no effort to recover it. The Broncos did, and quickly marched the short distance for a garbage time touchdown that provided the final score of 24-10. It may as well have been 54-10, the way their defense dominated. Afterward, the NFL set up Cam’s post-game press conference just a few feet away from the presser for a member of the Broncos defense, who was understandably loud and boisterous about the big win. Cam had his worst press conference yet, appearing in a hoodie pulled down over most of his face, gave yes or no only answers for about 2 minutes, and walked off.
The 2016 season was a disaster. Game 1 was a rematch with Denver. The officiating crew allowed Cam to absorb multiple hits that according to the rules are illegal for quarterbacks in a passing position. We missed a game-winning field goal on the last play. It went downhill from there. Cam continued to absorb illegal hits, the offensive line imploded with injuries, Cam had the worst of his 6 seasons and the team regressed to a 6-10 record. As a sad side note, Cam has started exploring fashion. He should explore the Australian Outback instead. Think of the worst-dressed person you have ever seen in your life. Cam Newton is worse. I would rather have a deaf, blind, mute Hellen Keller clone dress me than Cam Newton. Good gawd, what horrifying fashion sense he has. Fortunately for us Panthers fans, this has exactly zero effect on his ability to play NFL football. Of course, a lot of people can’t separate the two.
OK, so that wasn’t a very short version. At least you’re still reading. So what is the problem? On social media and various football website comment sections, people continue to carry on as if Cam Newton is more evil than the Egyptian Pharaoh, Napoleon, Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein combined. Every time his name is mentioned, here comes the hate. They complain about the end zone dances is if end zone dances never existed before Cam started them. Every time his name is mentioned, someone rips him and predicts he’ll be sulking under a towel within minutes of game one, even though he has not done any such thing in 4 years. Every time his name is mentioned, the Super Bowl fumble is brought up. Every time his name is mentioned, someone castigates him for his fashion choices, as if that has a material effect on his on-field play.
I’m so sick of this crap. In the 1970s, the Dallas Cowboys had a receiver named Butch Johnson who celebrated his touchdowns by dropping to his knees and mimic a person pulling 2 revolvers from his hips and firing them in the air, and he’s entertaining. But Cam Newton does a goofy dance and hands the football to a child in the stands, and he’s an immature punk. Terrell Owens was famous for going to the sidelines and screaming at his quarterbacks at the top of his lungs, and he’s a fiery competitor. But Cam Newton sits at the end of the bench with a towel over his head and he’s a me-first person. Manny Hernandez, the center for the Denver Broncos, snaps the ball 10 feet over Peyton Manning’s head in the first play of the Super Bowl in 2015, and it’s a mistake. Cam doesn’t jump on a fumble in garbage time and he’s a quitter. Marshawn Lynch refuses to cooperate with the media, answering every question with “uh, yeah” or “I’m here so I won’t get fined” and he’s entertaining. But Cam Newton doesn’t cooperate with the media and he’s a whiny little brat.
The things Cam Newton does as a football player have been going on since football was invented in the late 1800s. His celebrations, bad plays, fashion errors and media cold shoulders are absolutely nothing new. I’m sick and tired of people acting like he has created some new type of evil. And it will all go away as soon as the world accepts the fact that the Crimson Tide fans are wrong and drop the “Cam got paid to play at Auburn” and joins the rest of us in the year 2017.