That crazy Cam Newton. Here he is on the cusp of training camp and he goes to Australia to play Australian Rules Football. I saw a game when I was in Sydney and they’re tough, those Aussies.
That crazy Rory McIlroy. Here he is on the cusp of the British Open and he plays soccer with his buddies in Northern Ireland. Of course soccer is dangerous. You can’t use your hands.
Newton and McIlroy, both 26, have been criticized for daring to venture outside their sport and, in Newton’s case, country. Because they are athletes, some have decided, they forfeit the right to be human. Why not just stay in the house and watch TV and see what people are writing about them on Twitter?
Newton went to Australia as part of a Gatorade Football Exchange Program. Not sure if a white Gatorade towel, which could function as headgear, was included. Why wouldn’t he go? Somebody comes to you and asks: “You want to go to the other side of the world and experience another brand of football?” Do you say: “I can’t. I’ll miss Trivia Night”?
There are Panthers fans who will not forgive the team for signing Newton to a $103.8 million contract and won’t forgive Newton for smiling and laughing and enjoying life.
They know where Newton should be. He should be in a secret and undisclosed bunker outside, say, Winston-Salem. He should spend his nights studying the playbook and his days throwing passes to Kelvin Benjamin, Brenton Bersin, Jarrett Boykin, Corey Brown, Damiere Byrd, Jerricho Cotchery, Ed Dickson, Devin Funchess, Ted Ginn Jr., Stephen Hill, De’Andre Presley, Greg Olsen, Brandon Williams and other receivers whose names I have inadvertently omitted.
Do you see Peyton Manning in Australia? Do you think Manning ever takes a day off?
He takes a day off every time the playoffs begin. OK, that’s a joke. But all Mannings take a day off. The only people who work all the time are those that are afraid to face life without it.
Don’t you perform better if you take a break? And if you can’t find joy, why get out of bed in the morning?
McIlroy makes the soccer game in which he played sound like pickup basketball among friends. Go out with your buddies, play a game you’ve played since you were kids, laugh and put on moves and try to win.
Those games can lead to an injury. So can walking down stairs or walking around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. McIlroy tore a ligament in his left ankle and will miss next week’s British Open.
He’ll be the first defending champion in 61 years not to defend his title. The No. 1 player in the world, McIlroy will deprive fans of seeing him go against the up, coming and amazing Jordan Spieth.
Of course McIlroy will be missed. He’s fun to watch and great to talk to.
So do we go to him and say: “Sorry, Rory, but when you’re not competing we’re going to preserve you behind thick glass”?
It’s as if we want to stick our athletes in a zoo or something. And they’re not ours.
There are things people who play sports and watch sports shouldn’t do. If, for example, we feel compelled to indulge in firecrackers or fireworks, we ought to take great care.
But soccer, travel and Australian Rules Football exhibitions should be neither banned nor discouraged.
Before they were athletes, Newton and McIlroy were humans.
They still are.
Sorensen: 704-358-5119; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tomsorensen