His name was Mike and he had called on one of those endless days of waiting and hype before the Super Bowl. He wanted the Panthers to lose because he didn’t like Cam Newton.
“He was talking about where people didn’t like him because he was black?” Mike said. “That’s not the reason. It’s because he doesn’t have any class. He acts like a high school kid ... the way he runs out and jerks his shirt open and thinks he’s Superman. When he makes a first down he’s got to ... point and stuff.”
Many players dance in the end zone or celebrate big plays. Green Bay’s Aaron Rogers has done the “Discount Double-Check” from the field to TV commercials. After a quarterback sack, Houston’s J.J. Watt looks like he’s on Dance Fever.
Mike said he hadn’t seen those other moves, but would be seeing the Super Bowl. He said he liked Peyton Manning, and would be pulling for the Panthers to lose.
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“Because they have Cam and they’re classless.”
I dubbed him “Genius Caller Mike” for his hypocrisy and “hating” and ragged him for days. Callers criticized him; social media posters pounded.
When Super Bowl Sunday arrived, Cam emerged wearing a black t-shirt with a bright gold Superman logo, and gold shoes declaring “MVP” for his selection as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. He switched to his official jersey and cleats before kick-off and turned in one of his worst performances in years.
He completed less than half his passes, was intercepted once, and fumbled twice. The only touchdowns he was involved in were the ones Denver scored off his fumbles. There was no “Dabbing” because there was nothing to Dab about. On the sidelines, late in the game, it was the Cam of a few years ago. Only thing missing was the towel.
Then came the press conference.
Newton slouched behind the microphone, sulked under his hoodie, and glared at reporters. He mumbled few-word answers. After three painful minutes he muttered, “I’m done, man,” and walked out.
Responsibility for his poor performance in the game was not Newton’s alone. Denver showed why its defense is No. 1 in the league, and to call the rest of the Panthers’ usually explosive offense ineffectual might be an understatement. Cam's lousy showing in the press conference, though, was all his.
Facing the cameras is tough after any loss, especially the Super Bowl, but it goes with the job. Many distraught players have done it respectably, including Sunday’s victor, Peyton Manning, after his Super Bowl defeat two years ago.
There was a distraction caused by the NFL having stupidly put another press conference in the same room as Newton’s, separated only by a curtain. Denver's Chris Harris Jr. was having a grand time with reporters.
And Newton was gracious when meeting Manning after the game Sunday.
None of which excuses his press conference behavior. Cam's no longer a kid. He's a 26-year-old man. He's the Panther's $103 million team captain and the MVP and “face” of the NFL. He relishes those roles, but Sunday simply missed the chance to act as the leader and positive role model he says he wants to be. He missed the chance to show some class.
He did, however, make Genius Caller Mike’s day.
Keith Larson can be heard weekdays 9 a.m. - Noon on WBT AM/FM.