I don’t know Cam Newton. I have never played in the NFL. I don’t claim to know about football more than any other sports analyst or beat writer out there.
However, as an athlete and coach, I have spent an enormous amount of time observing athletes going through physical and mental stress.
“I’m only a man in a silly red sheet…”
The visceral reaction of the national media, social media, and my even my wonderful mother-in-law over Cam Newton’s behavior after the Super Bowl really made me think.
Why do we expect athletes to act and behave a certain way?
There are definitely good behaviors and bad behaviors. We are taught to know the difference as children, and we grow and experience them over time. In the moment that Cam Newton had lost the biggest game in the course of his career, everyone expected him to know how to behave.
Losing the Super Bowl is no different than an Olympian falling short of an Olympic medal. Yet, the NBC Olympic coverage will never pan the camera over to the Olympian that finishes in 4th place. The camera will never follow them for the next 4 years as they begin again, or try to move on with their life.
I have watched athletes fail and I have also failed myself. I remember exactly how I felt in that moment when I realized I was not moving on to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
I love and adore my wife. I would never have been upset with her attempts to console me about losing. However, there were definitely people in my life that I would not want to see or speak to at that moment.
There were also a few I may have punched in the face.
“Digging for Kryptonite on this one way street…”
Did anyone see this picture? A smile. I re-watched the entire game to observe Cam Newton’s facial expressions. He was not allowing himself to have fun in the moment. He was playing the Super Bowl against one of the greatest quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen in Peyton Manning. A quarterback who at the potential end of his career realized that he just needed to do what was necessary to win, and not try to win the game all by himself.
This is how an athlete matures over time. No doubt after Peyton Manning lost his previous two Super Bowls we all sympathized because he was still ‘classy’ enough to stand up in front of the world and talk about what just happened. But remember, he didn’t shake hands after losing the Super Bowl to New Orleans. Peyton Manning eventually learned to come to terms with his declining abilities, just as he learned to swallow his pride and be a good loser.
Peyton Manning is not Cam Newton. Cam Newton is not Peyton Manning.
If Cam Newton were to take the AthleteDISC behavior profile, I would guess that he was a high “I” for Influence and a high “D” for Dominance. Being able to enjoy the sport of football with his teammates and be super competitive is what has shaped him as a young man, and what he continues to live for. If you take those things away from him, then you are left with an athlete struggling to be something he is not.
“Only a man in a funny red sheet, looking for special things inside of me…”
Cam Newton must now spend the entire NFL off-season trying not to read and listen to the national media, social media, and fans who believe they know what a football should be and how they should behave. Younger athletes are different.
Our parents and their parents’ generation were extremely hard workers; they endured to provide us with the best things in life. Now I have begun my dual career as a parent and coach, and I realize that the next generation is different.
People are calling Cam Newton a 26-year-old child.
He is a child. He is 26 years old. I can say that now because I am close to 40. I remember how I behaved when I was 26. All of us should remember how we were when we were 26. We thought we knew everything. We learned from those mistakes. If we want the next generation to trust us then we need to stop following the script of:
“Why can’t you be like me when I was your age?”
I struggle with that right now with my own daughters. I try to impose some of the values that I learned as a child on them, but I need to realize that they are not me. I hope that one day they will see the best in me.
We model good behavior for our children through our own behavior. Not by shoving it down their throats…
If we call a person ‘classless,’ a ‘punk,’ ‘petulant,’ and ‘a baby’ then we are just reinforcing the behavior.
We are not helping. We are judging.
If we believe we are better than everyone else then maybe we should start using that knowledge to start teaching instead of sitting back pretending that we know exactly what the person is going through.
Oops. I’m judging.
“I’m only a man in a funny red sheet, I’m only a man looking for a dream…”
We cannot blame his teammates, even if they blame themselves. Each of them perceived that they had to behave a certain way during the Super Bowl. The difference is that the national media does not care and will not analyze what was going through the mind of his teammates. They will only focus on Cam Newton’s behavior.
Each of his teammates will still have to look at themselves in the mirror and try to understand what they were missing during that game. Two NFL teams were playing at the highest level. Both teams came ready to play, and the game was always within reach. Only one team could win.
Did the Carolina Panthers fail? Yes, but finishing second is not the worst thing in the world.
Our “mature” American society made “winning” the most important thing.
MORAL OF THE STORY
“I’m only a man in a silly red sheet, And it’s not easy…
At this point, now, I am invested. I want to see him succeed. I am tired of watching athletes fail because I already know what it feels like. When I watch my athletes and others fail, I am reliving my own athletic failures with them.
The process of recovering from that takes a very long time. Someday, I will share that journey with everyone, but my focus now is to help athletes move passed and overcome that.
Cam Newton, I’m ready to believe. I know you did the absolute best that you could. You will learn from your mistakes and become a better athlete; a better person. You have already come forth and admitted that your choice of behavior might not have been the best one. It wasn’t. Do not let people change or sway you from who you are.
Superman will rise again…
“…It’s not easy to be me…”
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