(Note: For those who don’t follow college sports and don’t understand the Alabama/Auburn dynamic, the following contains criticism of a former Auburn player, Cam Newton, by an Alabama fan, me. This being the case, Auburn fans will react to my comments the same way a new mother would react to a stranger saying her baby looks like the underside of a roadkill opossum. There’s nothing we can do about that. I only ask everybody to take my word for it that I’m trying to be as objective as possible.)
It is obvious what the deal is with Cam Newton. He’s a personality type that’s as common in the South as Krispy Kremes and people who aren’t allowed to buy Sudafed without a doctor’s note: the pampered athlete.
Cam has clearly spent his entire life being the biggest, strongest, fastest, prettiest kid on the playground. And when you’re that kid, especially if you’re playing football in the South, it’s easy to find yourself surrounded by people who will fall all over themselves to make excuses for every jerky thing you do — coaches, teammates, fans, and unfortunately even parents.
After a lifetime of not being held accountable for anything even as basic as common sportsmanship, you get what you got at Cam’s infamous post-Super Bowl press conference.
Now, before I go any further, let me concede that Cam’s display at that press conference is what everyone who loses a big game feels like on the inside. That feeling is completely understandable. But there is a word for a person who always expresses whatever he feels on the inside without regard for anyone else, and that word is “baby.”
Adults inherently know that the proper remedy for this kind of behavior is for the perpetrator to be called on it and held accountable. That is, they inherently know it… unless the perpetrator is their kid. In that case, they think the proper remedy is everybody does it and you’re just jealous and shut up.
And that, of course, is exactly what made Cam what he is in the first place. That’s the part of this episode that’s been both amazing and depressingly predictable to me: Everybody knows arrogance when they see it, and they know what causes it, and yet so many people lined up to make excuses for Cam they same way people have made excuses for him all his life, because they’re fans and he’s their guy.
It’s an object lesson on how people will instinctively defend someone who’s dear to them. We’ll all do it for our own kids, even while we watch other parents do the same thing and think, “Well, that kid’s going to grow up to be a jerk.” We know what makes that kind of a person, but we do it anyway.
It’s almost sweet, in a maddening way. Some people buy into your life in such a way that there’s nothing you can do that they won’t defend. It feels good to get that kind of support. But it also guarantees that certain species, like the idiot jock, will never go extinct.