So what do you make of Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers’ franchise quarterback? Does the post-touchdown Superman celebration burn you up? Does the first-down celebration drive you nuts? Do you feel as if he devotes more time to his post-game outfits than he does his team’s game plan?
I don’t care about Newton’s celebrations (as long as his team is not hopelessly behind when he performs them) and I have no interest in how other adult males dress.
I’ve sat down with Newton for a few one-on-one interviews, and I’d be lying if I said I know who he is.
But when he entertains children (and occasionally adults) at the events his foundation puts on, I know precisely who Newton is. He is Superman and Santa Claus, the pied piper, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy. He’s the big – 6-5 and 245 pounds – man who suddenly is a child. If you think Newton smiles inside his helmet on Sundays, you ought to see him with kids.
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Newton put on a Cam’s Thanksgiving Jam Monday with the Second Harvest Food Bank, an organization that helps feed children and seniors and everybody else who needs their aid.
With a DJ and a drummer and more than 50 volunteers, Newton offered turkey and yams, green beans and mac ‘n’ cheese. I wasn’t there. But I’ve attended several functions that his foundation sponsors.
The message is the same: Let’s have some fun. Newton holds the microphone the way he does a football. But after a touchdown he offers the football to a fan. I assure you that nobody is going to pry that microphone away.
Newton is as energetic as the kids he serves, and there were more than 800 kids there Monday. Newton is the MC, the host, moving around, slapping hands, proving that he is the man they have watched on TV.
The petulant Newton who stands behind the lectern at news conferences also is a part of who he is. Some offer Newton an escape by saying that he’s competitive and hates to lose. Tom Brady talks when it’s turn. I’ve never asked him, but I suspect Brad wants to win, too.
Athletes aren’t always the uncomplicated people we portray them as. Like the rest of us, they are a lot of things.
Newton is a lot of things. One of them is a man with a microphone, surrounded by children a third his size, dispensing food, telling jokes and trying to make those he serves as happy and as entertained as he is.
That’s a pretty cool thing to be.