Fail and they will ignore you. Succeed and there are those who will try to bring you down. Just ask Cam Newton. The Carolina Panthers quarterback is leading a team on a tear. They had a great record in the regular season, and they went into the NFC Championship the odds-on favorite. Along the way, Newton became a polarizing figure. His on-field antics revved up the Panther faithful and rubbed many commentators and critics the wrong way.
But, say what you want about Cam, he sure puts his heart into the game, and he seems to be having a great time out there. Remember that? Remember when quarterbacks enjoyed the game? When the on-field generals let their emotions show. They grinned when they made a good pass and jumped up and down or threw their fist in the air when they connected on a touchdown pass. It was fun to watch them having fun.
Today’s NFL is about flashy and cerebral. QBs either blaze around defenders or sit back and pick them apart. Regardless, they do so with a stoic resolve. Not Newton. He’s passing out game balls in the stands and high-fiving in the end zone. He’s celebrating. And why not? His team is absolutely on fire this season. And he’s playing a game…why not have a good time doing it?
Naysayers will argue that “fun” is for receivers and running backs. Those guys can turn flips and dunk footballs over goalposts. They belong on Sports Centers highlight reel, not the quarterback.
Newton has no time for such noise. His team is winning, and he’s going to enjoy it. “Act like you’ve been there,” some would say. “I know how rare that can be,” Newton seems to reply.
In a game tearing itself apart because of aggression, concussions, and necessary roughness, Newton is the rocket-armed clown prince. He is a one-man show reminding all the gritty, angry teeth grinders that they are, after all, getting paid huge money to play a game.
Cam Newton will charge ahead for first down yardage, get mauled by half the defense and come up with a grin on his face. Getting this is part of the game … and this game is fun, remember?
Some players aren’t buying. They don’t like Cam’s antics, and they hate that he’s having fun. They can’t stand the smile or the casual confidence. Newton just grins and dares them to make him stop.