Whether his career lasts one more game, one more season or a dozen more years, I hope Cam Newton never stops doing his “Superman” routine after big plays.
Because among all of his talents, Newton’s one true super power is getting people to tell on themselves.
It’s happening already in Boston.
News of Newton’s contract agreement with the New England Patriots broke on Sunday night, and by Tuesday afternoon, without Newton having touched down in Massachusetts yet — he was in Los Angeles working with one of his new teammates, Mohamed Sanu — local sports radio hosts were already pulling out the tired, lacking-in-reality, dog-whistle tropes many NFL media types have used with Newton throughout his career.
In the span of 2 minutes and 20 seconds, 98.5 The Sports Hub hosts Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti said Newton won’t go along with the Patriots’ “culture,” and Newton’s “dabbing” and “showboating” will be a problem. They intimated that a 31-year-old man won’t be able to “contain” himself on the field, took a shot at Newton’s wardrobe, said coach Bill Belichick won’t “allow” Newton’s celebrations, and for good measure brought up the brief and unsuccessful New England tenure of Chad Ochocinco and confused Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett II.
Welcome to Boston, Cam.
This shouldn’t need to be said, but Newton’s wardrobe off the field has zero effect on what he does on the field. You may not like his style or want to emulate it, but not every man aspires to look as basic as a mannequin in JCPenney’s men’s department. The idea that how Newton dresses means he shouldn’t be on the Patriots’ roster or won’t fit in is absurd at best.
The Patriots’ “culture” is winning and focusing on the steps that need to be taken in pursuit of winning. Yes, Belichick doesn’t want players still celebrating a Week 4 win on Wednesday when there’s a Week 5 game to prepare for. But Belichick has no problem with celebrating touchdowns and big plays.
Don’t believe me, someone who covered the Patriots every day for almost a decade? Fine. Let Belichick tell you himself:
“There’s nothing wrong — in fact, you should. Be excited. When you make a play,” Belichick told New England players during a moment aired on “A Football Life” years ago. “Hell, look at all the work you’ve put into it. All the time that you’ve spent, and to go out there in a game, competitively, and execute it well and make a play, you should be excited about it. And your teammates should be excited too.”
Rob Gronkowski’s touchdown spikes became theater, with an elaborate wind-up or hip shaking (related: the idea that Newton’s “personality” won’t work in New England is specious too; no one had a bigger personality than Gronkowski on and off the field and he’s widely revered). Tom Brady nearly dislocated his shoulder on more than one occasion throwing the first-down sign after big plays. LeGarrette Blount would celebrate with the costumed Minutemen in the end zone at Gillette Stadium. The list goes on.
Newton’s idea of celebrating touchdowns is giving the ball to a kid in the stands. What a jerk.
The idea that Newton is a showboat is essentially a dog whistle that says more about the person making such a claim than it does Newton. There is at least one recent academic study showing that Black quarterbacks who show confidence are tagged as “arrogant” at higher rates than white quarterbacks — call it a penalty for celebrating while Black.
For a decade, Newton has been saddled with this negative label and others even though there’s not a single story from a credible Panthers or national NFL reporter with sources calling him arrogant, selfish, a bad teammate or lazy. There are numerous examples showing the opposite.
Not only is Belichick on video saying he supports players celebrating big plays, there’s also ample evidence that he supports players with big personalities. He loved Ochocinco, but that relationship failed because the receiver struggled to pick up the offense; he loved Randy Moss and Vince Wilfork and Gronkowski. Belichick may present himself as a robot but what matters most to him is whether a player is doing his job and producing.
It’s insulting to Newton to insinuate that he lacks the self-discipline to tone things down if he were asked to do so. Shouting “this guy is who he is!” as if there’s a shred of evidence that he’s a bad guy, is just one more terrible take to add to the pile.
Like LeBron James, who shares the same superpower of getting people to tell on themselves, Newton was exactly what a team should want from its leader and franchise quarterback: a good teammate in the locker room, a great community member off it. He had success despite a subpar offensive line in recent years, an often suspect receiving corps, and not getting a fraction of the protection other quarterbacks get from NFL officials. He made “Flex Friday” a thing in Carolina. He seems to love his job. He gave money, and more importantly his time to numerous causes.
And not for nothing, but if Newton is celebrating while he’s playing for New England, it’s because something positive happened for the Patriots. You know, the team that has won six Super Bowls this century and these hosts are ostensibly paid to follow, not to mention their station pays the Patriots a fair amount of money to broadcast their games on the radio throughout the region. They’re complaining that Newton might be happy when he and his Patriots teammates do something good?
Oh, and neither Newton nor anyone else dabs anymore.
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