I don't care if you don't like Cam Newton... and neither does he. It's a mantra that I've had a hard time following, until today. Today Cam Newton released me from every bond I felt I had. A bond that I thought required me to defend him, to come to his aid, and to pick fights verbally in his honor. A bond that had me convinced that I was the person that needed to reach those he could not, and show evidence for why he should be loved and adored.
You know the battle. I don't think I need to cover it here. You know the points and counterpoints. You know the fact from the fiction. You know his virtues and his shortcomings, and you don't understand those who don't. He's your quarterback, he's not theirs, but the quest for acceptance nudges you forward into wanting him to be theirs as well.
But Cam Newton doesn't want that.
He wants to be who he is, and do so without apology. Those that still like him upon knowing that are the ones he plays for. He doesn't play for the naysayers or the media, he doesn't hold his tongue for the sake of not ruffling feathers, he is real... and for someone who is constantly being called "fake" by his detractors, I think he is actually the realest person in the NFL today.
Reporters who interviewed him today, found this out first hand:
"The truth of the matter is, I'm not trying to be this person, nor am I trying to be that person.
I've said it since Day 1: I am who I am, I know what I'm capable of and I know where I'm going. I don't have to conform to anybody else's wants for me to do. I'm not that guy.
If you want me to be this type of person, I'm not that. And I'm happy to say that."
Detractors will say that this is the typical attitude of his generation. That this is the worst of the "Me" generation coming forward and trying to make the world bend to him.
Well, for me that argument only holds water when you're talking about someone who hasn't accomplished anything and simply wants the world to accomplish something for them. It's not really what I'd associate with a self-made millionaire that has worked his tail off to get to the level he is at. Cam Newton is trying to establish a new bar, where athletes can speak their minds and be held accountable for their own words, even if they are not the words that everybody wants to hear. The difference between Newton and the world... is that Newton is okay with being held accountable, the world is not okay with his defiance in the face of detraction. This next quote typifies that, where its clear the media present are trying to get him to apologize for his press conference by asking:
Do you have any regrets on how you handled the post-game interview?
"I really don't. It happened. I didn't want to talk to the media at the time and the truth of the matter is, I really still don't want to talk to you. But at the end of the day, things have to happen.
I had a lot of time to go back and play everything back and I've got to say, I'm human. I never once said I was perfect, I never proclaimed I was perfect, but at the end of the day, people pick and they do things of that sort and the truth of the matter is, who are you to say your way is right?
That's what I don't understand. You've got all these people who are condemning and saying, 'Oh, man, you shouldn't do this.' But what makes your way right? I mean, I've been on record to say I'm a sore loser. Who likes to lose? You show me a good loser and I'm going to show you a loser."
Cam is of course quoting the great Vince Lombardi in that last sentence. A sentence that spits in the face of losing well, but yet was uttered by one of the game's legends. Upon uttering those words... he follows up with music to the ears of everyone who matters to him.
"It's not a popularity contest. I'm here to win football games - for this organization, for Mr. Richardson, for my teammates, and for what it's worth, my fans. They know what's real, and I leave everything else out on the field, I prepare the right way, I have a mentality and a standard I set for myself, and I'm not going to bend nor break."
Damn, Cam. That is stone cold. It is unyielding, it is controversial, it is not at all the words the pundits wanted to hear... because it certainly is not an apology... but nor is it an excuse. You will play for the people who want you to play for them. Period.
How can anyone argue with that? If their quarterback uttered it... how could any other fan of another team NOT stand behind it?
It is beautiful in its simplicity... the idea that a man does what he does for himself and the betterment of those he cares about. It's a family spirit. It's knowing that you can't please everyone, but you can inspire and work for the few. It's the same feeling he gives out in every charity event, every football to a child, and every jumping high five with Derek Anderson and Joe Webb.
Cam leaves us with what we all KNOW to be true...
What is your message to fans?
"We will be back. I mean that. We will be back. I say that with so much emphasis.
If I offended somebody, that's cool. I know who I am, and I'm not about to conform, nor bend, for anybody's expectations, because yours or anybody else's expectations will never exceed mine."
And it was at that moment... I understood what "The Dab" is all about. It's punctuation. It's what you do when there is nothing else to say. It's dropping the mic. It's being heard and then letting everyone else say what they want, because you're done doing what you need to do.
So the next time someone engages you on why they don't like Cam Newton... deny them the press conference. Don't let them ask you the same questions, so you can give the same answers without changing a single mind. Cam doesn't want or need you to, and you have better things to do. He's your quarterback and he's playing for you, not them. You stay in his corner, and I firmly believe he is going to get us all there eventually. Because he's a Panther, we are Panthers, and Panthers...