This Sunday, Buffalo embarks on their first road trip as they play in Charlotte vs. the Panthers. With that comes a date with one of the most polarizing players in the NFL, Cam Newton. The word polarize means to divide or cause to divide into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs. That describes the public’s view of Newton.
Newton’s college career wreaked of controversy. He stole a laptop from a classmate and faced potential expulsion for academic dishonesty while with Florida. When he moved on to Auburn, it was discovered that his father was soliciting Mississippi State boosters. Newton was not penalized as the NCAA determined there was no evidence Cam knew of his father’s illegal activity.
In the meantime, Newton won the Heisman Trophy and led Auburn to the National Championship. So, before he ever played a down in the NFL, millions already loved him or really didn’t like him.
In Newton’s sensational 2015 season, he re-entered the national consciousness in a big way and the strong opinions and hot takes resurfaced. His touchdown celebrations sparked an equal share of growls and giggles. For some traditionalists, the classy move after a score is to toss the ball back to the referee like Barry Sanders. “Act like you’ve been there before,” they yell at the TV.
For others, watching a man in his late ‘20’s who makes tens of millions of dollars run around a ball field with the expression of a child who just got a new puppy brings unfettered joy. The happy Cam Newton ruled the league in 2015, dabbing and doing the whip and the nene into the hearts of young fans throughout the Carolinas. Parents would line up in the stands with their children so that perhaps Newton would pass on his touchdown-scoring ball to their little one.
His Super Bowl appearance was a nightmare, though, and he has not since played a good football game. Newton, in truth, is a ferocious competitor and thus, gets labeled as a sore loser. In the most important game of his life, he played terribly. He botched his postgame press conference acting like a big baby when being asked normal questions by journalists doing their job.
He has gone as far as ripping down the opposing team’s banners when they are put up at Bank of America Stadium. Likewise, Newton has ripped officials for not calling illegal hits and roughing the passer penalties. Some have argued that if these same hits came against Tom Brady or Drew Brees, not only would there be penalties, there would be fines.
Living in Carolina the last two years, I can tell you my side of the story. His two states, his city, his fans love him. His coach loves him. His teammates love him. His family loves him. And that is what matters to him most. He loves those who love him and puts the haters aside.
If people do not like someone because that person celebrates too much or smiles too much or dabs too much, is that person supposed to stop to make the haters change their minds? If people do not like someone because that person was heartbroken and ticked off that his team lost the Super Bowl, is that person supposed to pretend it did not bother him so “haters” change their opinion about him?
Like him or not, he is who he is. And in today’s game, there is only one Cam Newton.
Brandon Fazzolari (aka Dr. Super Bowl) writes about the Buffalo Bills for Pro Football Spot. @spot_bills