Midway through the third quarter Thursday night, with the Carolina Panthers trailing the New York Giants 23-0 and playing an absolutely awful football game at home, Cam Newton scored on a 1-yard dive into the end zone.
Then, as is Newtons custom, he did his Superman pose, where he pretends to rip off his jersey and reveal an S underneath. Its a familiar gesture to Panthers fans, since Newton scored 14 times last year, but this time it has caused some blowback because the Panthers were so far behind at the time.
You know the drill: Angry fans and media folks, usually of the White Guys Over 40 variety, rip a player for drawing undue attention to himself and not acting like hed been there before.
While I fall into that demographic, Im not going to rip Newton for this. I thought what he did was just fine. It certainly drew the loudest cheers of the night at Bank of America Stadium and it would never have been given a second thought had Newton led the team to a comeback.
And thats the key here a comeback was still possible at the time.
This wasnt the late Panther Fred Lane doing a longer celebratory dance in 1998 when the Panthers cut a N.Y. Jets lead to 41-20 in the fourth quarter. (And Lane wasnt suspended for that, either, although some people incorrectly remember it that way. Lane was suspended for a game without pay for facing a group of Jets fans and grabbing his crotch after his first-quarter TD in the same contest).
I disagreed with Lanes fourth-quarter dance at the time because that game was truly out of reach. This one wasnt.
The Panthers shouldnt be concerned with tamping down the positive side of Newtons emotions. They need to worry about letting him sink into that deep sideline funk he is prone to when things are going wrong.
Newton was sulking when he was pulled from the game, and in that the quarterback was wrong. As I wrote in Saturdays newspaper, wide receiver Steve Smith was absolutely correct to call Newton out on the sideline and use some unchoice words while doing so, as Smith memorably put it later.
But this? Criticizing Newton for doing the exact same thing he delighted people with last year?
I think this is mostly the case of a lot of people being mad at the Panthers 1-2 start and then casting about for somebody to heap the blame upon.
Im not worried about Newton when hes celebrating. More power to him. Thats part of what makes Newton great when he is great.
What I worry about is when hes sulking on the bench, alone in a crowd.
In other words, Newton as Superman doesnt bother me a bit.
What bothers me is how he acts once he turns back into Clark Kent.