Heck Of A Season

Photo:  Pexels.com I was hoping to write this post while being in a more joyous mood. No such luck.  The Carolina Panthers fe...

Photo: Pexels.com
I was hoping to write this post while being in a more joyous mood. No such luck. 

The Carolina Panthers fell to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday night. But I'm not going to talk about the game, nor the NFL's "Gold Standard" - Peyton Manning - riding off into the proverbial sunset with another Super Bowl title under his belt. I've heard enough of that.

What I'm choosing to talk about instead is the undeniably outstanding season Carolina had. Going through the grind of the NFL season and playoffs with a 17-2 record is a rare feat. Honestly, this is the most fun I've had as a mere spectator of the franchise since I first became a fan 12 years ago. The Panthers have played like a collective unit since day one - each player wearing his heart on his sleeve and having a blast while playing the sport he loves. People unrelentingly flung clods of ridicule their way, counting them out all season long. They took it as fuel and motivation for their game.

Now that I've congratulated my team, I'd like to discuss some things I saw during and following the game on Sunday night. As a guy who's completely enveloped in sports, I see and hear fans of all types, from the respectful to the rabid and even insulting. Dealing with some Broncos fans has been an experience that I've rarely visited before. To be fair, I saw many fans being respectable but there were many others who were just downright sore winners. Even Broncos defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, apparently got in on the act, given the tweet below:
Was it really necessary for a 68-year-old NFL coach to talk smack to the Panthers and a 26-year-old Cam Newton while the team was already upset with losing the game? And, of course, the media just ate it up. I'll get more into the media thing later.

It's also ridiculously obvious that many people hate Cam Newton. Yes, I said "hate" because "dislike" does not do what I've witnessed any justice. From calling him a "thug" to saying he shouldn't celebrate and everything in between, I've seen and heard it all. The vitriol was out in full force after the game on Sunday night, fueled by Newton's performance on the field as well as his postgame interview. After answering a myriad of idiotic questions - and having to listen to a Broncos player gloat about his team's victory right next to him - Newton simply walked away from the podium, creating a firestorm of comments from the peanut gallery on social media - the worst of them all coming from former NFL player Bill Romanowski.

If you think the hatred is justified in any way, it shouldn't be. After hearing about Peyton Manning not shaking hands with any New Orleans Saints players, including fellow QB Drew Brees, after the Colts' 31-17 loss in Super Bowl XLIV, I decided to do a little research. From what I gathered, the criticism for Manning was much more lenient then. Look no further than this article by Chris Chase of Yahoo! Sports written after the game that year. Chase concluded that Manning's actions were not due to a lack of sportsmanship, rather, to his competitive nature, saying:

"Walking off the field without congratulating Drew Brees may go against our misguided notion of what sportsmanship should be, but it wasn't at all disrespectful or bitter. It shows how much Peyton Manning wanted to win the game. And who can argue about that?"

Another article, written by Fox Sports at the time of Super Bowl XLIV, basically defended Manning's actions, saying in part:

"Was it poor sportsmanship for not shaking hands with Saints players? Sure. But after what had just transpired in Super Bowl XLIV, I wouldn't want to look back either."

Fast forward to 2016. All I had to do was type "Cam Newton" in the search box on Google and click on the "News" section to see a plethora of articles arguing how Newton was "selfish" or how he should not have walked away from the podium during his interview. The media, in my opinion, continues to perpetuate this "Cam Newton is classless" narrative. It's unwarranted and disgusting. Newton actually did something that Manning refused to do in Super Bowl XLIV - congratulate his peer - but you will more than likely not hear too much about it.

Whether the hatred is based on Newton's race, age, talent, playing style or a combination of all of the above, the fact of the matter is it's real and it needs to end. I don't have the answer as to how we stop it but it's tiring to see people - many of whom don't even have a snap of football under their belts much less a snap in the NFL - make half-witted comments from the comforts of their keyboards.

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