Super Bowl 50 was undoubtedly one of the worst football games I watched all season. Given that I’m a Redskins fan, I’d say that poorly executed game plans and boring four-quarter wars of attrition are well within my wheelhouse.
In summary, the game unfolded like the world’s least exciting game of Ping-Pong. Each team’s offense politely handed the ball back to its counterpart in a four-hour spectacle of ineptitude. The Carolina Panthers looked anemic, as their patchwork receiving corps struggled to simply get open, let alone make any meaningful receptions. Meanwhile, Denver’s Peyton Manning, who in football years is approximately 105 years old, spent most of the game trying not to screw up the opportunities that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ all-star defense had bought him. As a result, most of my evening was spent coming up with prop bets about which soulless corporation Papa Peyton would plug first in his post-victory interview — Budweiser won.
Fortunately, Cam Newton’s postgame press conference, and the heated controversy that surrounded it, has provided me with far more interesting narratives to discuss than the game itself.
Newton, the newly crowned NFL MVP, has spent most of the season enduring some fairly useless criticism for his touchdown celebrations, postgame comments and for having the gall to actually enjoy playing professional football.
When Newton petulantly exited his post-Super Bowl press conference, following a series of laconic responses and expressions of displeasure, the floodgates opened once more in diluvial fashion. National sports pundits, lacking anything more compelling to write about, spent most of Sunday night and Monday afternoon raising hell because Newton, unsurprisingly, didn’t take losing the biggest game of his young football career particularly well. Equally unfortunately, much of the criticism that was directed at Newton following the Super Bowl, and throughout the season, has been chalked up to a racist double standard for black athletes.
I myself am inclined to believe that black athletes absolutely do face racism and unfair stereotypes throughout their playing careers, no matter the sport. However, I also refuse to believe that the disdain for Newton and his end zone “dabbing” stems from much more than a single universal truth of professional sports: Nobody likes a showboat.
Personally, I adore Newton and his antics, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the viewing public has to be as fond of Carolina’s Superman celebrating his own success. That viewpoint doesn’t have anything to do with racism; it’s simply a reflection of the principle that arrogant, successful athletes don’t tend to win many friends. Fans reacted so angrily to Newton’s glib, somewhat ungracious presser not because he happens to be a black quarterback, but because he’s spent most of the season dancing in front of defenses.
Newton got publicly shellacked for the same reasons Tom Brady was met with jeers when he was honored in a pregame ceremony at the Super Bowl. People don’t respond well to arrogance, especially when it is coupled with a history of success.
All of this is not to discount the idea that we live in a country that faces deep-seeded racial issues. I’m the biracial product of a black mother and a foreign, white father, living in rural Virginia. Trust me when I say that I’m more than aware that our country has a race problem. That being said, I’m not going to support politicians, social activists or even football fans using claims of racism, sexism or any other form of prejudice as a crutch. Just because prejudice exists, and has the unfortunate tendency to raise its ugly head, doesn’t mean that it has to be at the root of absolutely every controversy.
Newton-gate — or, as I’d prefer to call it, “Dab-ghazi” — is the product of sports journalists picking low-hanging fruit, not our country’s endemic problem with racism.
I like letting Cam be Cam, but it’s fine if you don’t.