Super Bad

Cam Newton’s touchdown celebrations have been the topic of much conversation this NFL season. Some folks think Newton’s flamboyance is ruining football (thus, America), and others say we should let the man have his fun. The criticisms of Newton’s celebratory antics have run the gamut from innocent curmudgeonry to thinly-veiled racism, and there’s been no shortage of opportunity for his haters to hate; Newton scored a lot of touchdowns this year.

Newton’s response to his critics? “If you don’t like it, don’t let me score.”
The Denver Broncos took Newton’s advice on Sunday night. The league’s top defense pounded the MVP like an oversized drum, and kept pounding all the way to a 24-10 victory in Super Bowl 50. He didn’t get to dance, he didn’t get to hand any footballs to the millionaires in the front row (who wastes a Super Bowl ticket on a little kid, right?), and he didn’t get a chance to pretend there was a big red “S” beneath his jersey.

I don’t care about Newton’s dancing (although “dabbing” has an entirely different connotation in Denver than it does in the Carolinas), and I think it’s great when he gives some kid a football for his dad to sell on Ebay, but that Superman thing…it’s never sat quite right with me. My doubts were confirmed Sunday night.

There was nothing super about Newton on Super Bowl Sunday. On the field, he looked more like Bizarro, Superman’s utterly-inept, otherworldly double. He showed flashes of the super powers at his disposal, but displayed complete incompetence in wielding them.

Above all, Superman is super heroic. It’s kind of a prerequisite for being a superhero. On Sunday night, with all of his teammates and fans counting on him, Newton was a coward. He was a coward when he made no effort to recover the football after having it stripped by Von Miller (again) in the fourth quarter. Superman would dive for that ball like it was baby on a subway track, or a ticking nuclear weapon that needed to be rushed into outer space before it destroyed everyone he cared about. When the time came for Newton to be brave, he said, “No thanks, I’m good.”

Even more un-heroic than his give-up on the loose ball, even more cowardly, was the way Newton carried himself after the game. All it took was one bad day for “keep pounding” to turn into “keep pouting.” Even superheroes fail sometimes. But when they do, they take responsibility for it. They own it, and then get right back to work punishing evil-doers. Newton had the opportunity to do just that in his postgame presser. He could have stood tall, chin up and arms akimbo, and answered Jimmy Olson’s questions like a professional.
Instead, he folded like a stolen laptop.

Perhaps Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib said it best after the game: “There ain’t no Santa Claus, there ain’t no Easter Bunny, there ain’t no Superman.”

Additional takeaways from Super Sunday:

– The Peyton Manning/John Elway comparisons should stop. Elway put that team on his shoulders and carried it to Denver’s first championship in the ’97 season. The Broncos claimed Sunday’s title in spite of their quarterback.

– Just like the Broncos learned two years ago when they were blown out by the Seahawks, defense still wins championships.

– Josh Norman is the real deal.

– Who was that gorgeous woman who sang the national anthem so beautifully? I thought they were going to have some freak in a meat dress do it.

– Did you see the look on little brother Eli Manning’s face at the end? That’s the look of a man who just lost all of his bragging rights forever.

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