Monday, February 8, 2016

Cam Newton's Post-Superbowl Press Conference

You're going to hate this post.

I don't even know who's going to read this post, but I'm positive that 99.9% of people who read it will feel differently from me, and that's okay. I just figured I'd give you a heads up before we really dive into it.

The Super Bowl was last night, with the Denver Broncos beating the Carolina Panthers by a score of 24-10. There are plenty of stories coming out of the game, from Peyton Manning's legacy to his specific mention of Budweiser in his postgame interview, as well as the obvious debriefing of the actual plays in the game. But one story that people seem to have latched onto as much as any is the tone of the postgame comments from Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

The first I had heard of it (I didn't stay glued to the television for postgame garbage) was on Twitter, where I saw a 30-second clip of just the very end of Newton's discussion with the media. So, my initial exposure was that he answered one question with "No," then walked out.

The actual full discussion is here (NFL.com won't let me embed the video, apologies):

https://sports.yahoo.com/news/cam-newton-goes-from-superman-to-incredible-sulk-in-poor-postgame-showing-070021525.html

So, it's not quite as much of a blow-off as it had first seemed to me. He answers six or seven questions, though he's curt, and he mostly doesn't volunteer more than the most basic response to each question. He's obviously crushed, and he doesn't hide the fact that he's upset.

This isn't really new for Newton. All season he's been someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve. It just so happens that when you go 17-1, most of your emotions are positive, confident, and celebratory. After coming up short in the Super Bowl, it's understandable that he'd be crestfallen.

I don't think anyone is upset that he was upset. The sense I get is that people believe that Cam Newton should've...said more? Or had better posture? I mean, what exactly were people hoping for out of that interview? I've seen Twitter links to other quarterbacks who "do it right," and it's basically that they give longer answers that still don't really mean anything.

Let's look at one example.

Reporter (paraphrased): I know you've studied Denver, was there anything they did today that was different from what you saw coming in?

Newton (quote): "Nothing different."

So, what would the Twitter-verse have expected from a "correct" quarterback in this circumstance (using the same negative response)? A nice Robot QB would say something like, "I do not think they had a gameplan that surprised us. They just did a great job of executing it, and we could not counter it."

(If I learned anything from Star Trek: The Next Generation, it's that robots can't use contractions.)

Okay, sure, that's a little more pleasing to the ear. But does it matter? Unless you're a reporter hoping for quotable material from these postgame interviews to pad your word count, who gives a damn between the two answers? You feel better about the second one because someone's unhappiness isn't being shoved in your face. In Newton's actual response, his disappointment is palpable. He's devastated. He knows he has an obligation (whether official or moral) to meet with the media after the game, apparently in the same room as someone from the Broncos who's jubilantly getting interviewed nearby. So Newton shows up and answers a few questions when you know he probably just wants to go ten rounds with a punching bag, or spend an hour in the batting cages.

He's upset. That's okay.

Every year I watch the Capitals lose in the playoffs (except for year 2 with Oates, which mercifully ended early). Every year they interview the players afterward, and their responses fall somewhere in between Cam Newton's and Robot QB. They're disappointed, they don't offer long responses, and as a fan, I appreciate that they're sad and pissed off and emotional. So am I, dammit.

I don't need to hear my team's players offer platitudes about effort or luck or next year. I don't want to hear that. What we all want out of being sports fans is to have a connection, to our city, to our fellow fans, and to the players. When Alex Ovechkin sits in stunned, motionless silence after the Caps lose a series, it's like looking in a mirror (except Ovie has less fat and fewer teeth). When I hurt, it's some small comfort to know that they hurt too. That this connection I seek isn't totally in my head. That we're sort of, barely, a little bit in the same boat.

The only things that really matter are the actions people take. If Cam Newton became an actual villain and stopped giving his time and money to those less fortunate, then sure, get mad. But my guess is that Newton will be the same generous man he's been all along.

My favorite Capitals story ever is from 2010, after maybe the worst series in Capitals' history. They were the number one overall seed, and had gone up three games to one against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. If you've followed the Caps at all, you know where this story goes next. The Caps lost three straight games, being eliminated in the first round during a year with incredible hope.

Among the players on that team (and still on the team today) was Brooks Laich. Laich was an assistant captain, but he declined to speak with reporters after the game. You can decide for yourself if you would prefer Newton's style of press conference or no press conference at all.

That evening, a woman and her daughter got a flat tire driving home from the game. They were waiting for AAA when an SUV pulled over and the driver got out to help them put the spare tire on. That driver was Brooks Laich. Worst loss of his career, a defeat rough enough that he didn't want to talk to reporters, but when someone needed a hand, Laich was there. Actions are what matter.

Words are wind. It doesn't bother me that Cam decided to spare us some hot air.

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