It was a bold move, strutting onto the biggest sports stage in the world wearing them. But then again, describing any one thing Cam Newton does as bold is like going to Mexico and still calling it “Mexican food.” Everything Cam does, every word that comes out of his mouth, every twinkling smile, every dab, every pair of shoes he wears scream it: I’m better than you, all of you, especially you… oh, is that your baby son? Yeah, him too.
Gleaming gold shoes with “MVP” scrawled across them was par for the course. It’s like up until he won the designation, he had been trying to put into words how he felt about his own greatness, and finally, somebody said it. It was on the tip of his tongue, yet it wasn’t coming out right, which is torment, as we all can relate. Cam’s Super Bowl shoes were a way of thanking the NFL for relieving him of the agony.
Those shoes were a perfect picture of why I vehemently disliked Cam Newton: He’s cocky, arrogant and conceited. Basically, your everyday dick. Throw in that I love football and my favorite team is not the Panthers, and maybe a dash of race (apparently my subconscious is terrified of black people), and baby, you got yourself a stew going.
After the Super Bowl, my opinion of him didn’t change; it was my self-image that took a hit, or got sacked, if you will… like strip-sacked, like twice.
To continue with the vast chasm of differences between me and Cam Newton, namely how he’s the MVP of all the world in something, anything, save maybe being picked first overall in the 2011 draft, walking onto that championship field was the first time public perception had caught up to Cam’s self-image.
Was anyone wrong? The team Cam was piloting had only lost once in its previous 22 games, spanning back two seasons. To find the previous loss, one would have to flip through all 12 pages of the calendar, throw away that calendar and go buy the previous year’s calendar at the the thrift store because they don’t sell 2014 calendars in real stores anymore.*
Cut to: Near midnight on Super Bowl Sunday, Cam Newton’s mighty 6 foot 5, 245 pound frame is sitting in a lethargy, bundled up, his cockeyed head staring into the distant ground like he had just lost his family in a house fire on some suburban curb.
Except he hadn’t just lost his family; he had lost a game.
He was bundled in a hoodie, not a blanket given to him by the authorities; the bright lights weren’t from a nearby ambulance, and the hoard of people talking to him weren’t there to console him. If it were so, Cam Newton would have had every right to mumble passive aggressive responses, and to walk out early in a huff, to the collective gasp of the media.
Then the onslaught ensued. Every sports pundit in America straightened their posture so tightly their judgment practically geysered out of the top of their heads. And so did I. Guys like me everywhere were almost cheering. The bad guy lost, and he was proving me right, that he was actually a bad guy.
Cam Newton hadn’t just lost a game, I opined in my head while I and the media joined hands against Cam, he had lost his lifeblood. He couldn’t stand there and look anyone in the face and say he was the best, in that moment. And without that right, Cam Newton becomes a vegetable.
I danced as I waxed philosophical. There is nothing more satisfying for the (self-proclaimed) male leader of an American family than being right about whether a public figure is actually a hero or a villain. And that Judeo-Christian, red, white, and blue blood was battle-marching through my veins. Until it halted one morning.
There was a moment of terror for me when my opinions shifted. It was a typical work-day morning, several days after Super Bowl Sunday. My wife and I had said probably eight words total to each other all morning during our pre-work routines. For some reason the ninth word set me off.
It was about placemats.
I had dropped a piece of my egg on one of the dinner table placemats and I informed her, kind of apologetically, because I know how dearly she loves her placemats and how hawkishly she watches my eating habits to see if they stray outside of the purview of the plate, because God forbid a placemat catch a piece of food, even though a placemat seems to have been invented to protect the table from exactly that. Why most of them aren’t easily washable continues to be beyond my intellectual capabilities.
She shrugged her shoulders and said some one-word answer that was tantamount to: “What do you want me to do about it? Don’t look at me. I cleaned them last time. And frankly, while I’m a quarter-way through this one word, I’m tired of cleaning up after your reckless eating habits, not just on placemats, but on all kinds of surfaces. Why do you think we always have an excess of multi-surface cleaner? Spoiler alert: it’s you. You spew, you know that? Our surfaces need to go on a damn diet because they’re consuming more of your food than you are. The next time you work out, take our kitchen counter with you!”
That’s what I heard, at least, and I was so sure that’s what she meant that I flipped. Who knows what I said, but it was definitely disproportional, and with vigor. Months of bottled up spills poured into one heated sentence. Not surprisingly, the interaction worsened. I then very intelligently and carefully picked through my marital relationship toolbox for the perfect reaction: I sulked.
I sat there puffing, wrapped in my robe (you don’t have one? Get one. Get three.), staring into the distance, like a man who had lost everything. It felt eerily familiar to me. I all of a sudden identified that moment with all the other times where I had sulked and huffed, and there were many. There I was in front of that soon-to-be-stained placemat, stacked among other visions of my sulking self in front of other inanimate house-hold objects, on screen after screen, like an electronics store display.
And lo, there among the displays of me was Cam Newton in his hoodie. And it hit me: I’m Cam Newton. He’s the man in the mirror. How many videos had I watched, nodding my head, videos of media pontificating on how unprofessional and selfish Cam had acted? Yes, I had thought with righteous indignation, this confirms that this media-made hero in our public culture is a fake.
I’m a fake. I turn into a vegetable, like a dejected child on a playground, when my pride is shot. The crazy thing is I wasn’t putting on a show, at least not intentionally. But I did it just the same. It’s who I am at the end of my emotional rope and current maturation level. Maybe it’s a child of divorced parents thing. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a being the best among mortals at a thing, and no one else can understand… thing. For one of us, that remains a possibility.
The hulking Cam Newton has all the trappings of the ultimate man. As it turns out, he is a camera trick** who has the maturity of an 11-year old, a boy-man who is out to justify his own existence at everyone else’s expense, a child who throws tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. And so am I.
Cam Newton showed zero class or professionalism when he sulked. And so do I.
Superman Cam turns out to be the Incredible Sulk. I think that puts me at more of a Sobbin’ Robin.
And then Cam went out and doubled down! He actually defended being such a sore loser two days later with a stupid smile on his face. I mean, come on! How can anyone actually be that stubborn? Thankfully, that’s where the similarities end. Thank the good Lord I’ve never stubbornly defended myself with a cocky-ass smile on my face.
*Yeah, I hear you, but while Big Lots makes one’s dreams come true, that doesn’t make it a real store.
**See what I did: Cam-era trick.
— Thanks to the New York Times, Huffington Post, and the Charlotte Observer for the photos —