NFL Fans Shouldn't Worry or Care About Players' Favorite Teams

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJuly 17, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 30:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 30, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There's a new "controversy" sweeping the National Football League, and as angry mobs of disgruntled fans gather to bemoan this latest issue one thing has become abundantly clear.

Training camp really needs to start so that we have some actual football news to report.

OK, so there aren't really angry mobs. There also shouldn't be any controversy, because this latest "revelation" ranks right up there with Al Capone's vault where news events are concerned.

As Macbeth said, "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

You see, it turns out that some NFL players actually root for teams besides the ones they play for.

I know. It's a stunner. I'll give you a moment to compose yourself before we continue.

This latest flaming scandalabra of nonsense started back on the 4th of July, when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was photographed at a party wearing a Miami Dolphins hat.

Never mind that the 49ers and Dolphins aren't rivals in any sense of the word, or that Kaepernick just led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, or that it's a hat.

Many fans lost their minds. The "story" was plastered all over ESPN and the NFL Network. Kaepernick's loyalty to the team was questioned, until he finally issued a mea culpa of sorts by having his picture taken wearing a San Francisco chapeau.

What should have been the end of a story that wasn't a story was actually only the beginning.

Last weekend, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton gave an interview to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution while at a charity event. As ESPN reports, Newton dropped a bombshell during that interview.

Newton revealed that he's a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, saying that "I've always been a Falcons fan, and I'm still a Falcons fan except for those two times a year [when the Panthers play Atlanta]."

Once again, never mind that Newton grew up in Atlanta. The internet lost its collective marbles.

I'll grant that Newton saying this to a reporter might not be the most intelligent thing he's ever done. After all, the Panthers and Falcons are NFC South rivals, and Newton's competitive spirit has been criticized in the past.

Still, if the reporter asked the question, what was he supposed to do, lie?

Newton's father came to his defense according to ESPN.

"Obviously with Cam, in addition to several other Panthers who have roots from Atlanta and Georgia, it's always one of the most competitive games on that schedule," Cecil Newton told the Journal-Constitution. "That's obvious, and Cam is going to assert every ounce of energy that he has. Why wouldn't Cam want to express who his hometown favorite team was when he was growing up? It means no more or no less. Some of his best performances came during Falcons games."

Newton's performances last year against the Falcons bear that out. In two matchups with Atlanta, Newton threw for 512 yards, ran for 202 more, scored six touchdowns and didn't turn the ball over.

His quarterback rating was over 110 in both games. The Panthers were one of only three teams to beat Atlanta during the regular season.

Given those performances, maybe Panthers fans should be encouraging Newton to root for more teams, rather than excoriating him for liking the Falcons.

It's not just the quarterbacks that are turncoats in the eyes of some fans. On Tuesday, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald revealed to Darren Urban of the Arizona Cardinals' website that he secretly has purple and gold blood coursing through his veins.

I grew up a Vikings fan and I would be lying to you if I didn’t say I was still a Vikings fan. Growing up in Minnesota it’s second nature. I still pull for them when I’m not playing them. A lot of my closest friends in the NFL are Vikings. I’m close with (Everson) Griffen, Jared Allen, Phil (Loadholt), Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph. You pull for your friends.

What is the world coming to?

It's an interesting testimonial to the differing public perception of the players in question that no one seemed to mind Fitzgerald's comments. Well, except for the Vikings fans that loved it and immediately started imagining hypothetical trades.

Settle down folks, it's not happening.

It's also an interesting testimonial to the information and social media ages that anyone cares about any of this even a little bit.

It's not exactly earth-shattering news that NFL players are also fans, or that they might actually root for a team besides the one they play for. Newton grew up in Atlanta. Fitzgerald literally grew up with the Vikings, serving as a ball boy for the team. Colin Kaepernick thinks teal brings out the softness in his eyes.

OK, so I might have made one of those up, but you get my point.

Sure, revealing these allegiances publicly may be viewed as unwise. However, we live in an era where people who you didn't really like in high school, but are now your Facebook "friends," tell you every time their toddler has a bowel movement.

Every facet of everything in life is now carefully examined, no matter how inane or insignificant it may be. It's magnified by a thousand for athletes and celebrities.

Barbara Walters was once ridiculed for asking Katherine Hepburn "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" No one would bat an eye at that question nowadays.

A question was asked. Newton and Fitzgerald answered it.

Does anyone really think that what team a player roots for has an iota of an effect on their on-field performance? That an ultra-competitive, highly-paid professional athlete would jeopardize their career for the sake of the "hometown team?"

I certainly hope not, because that's beyond silly. Fans are emotionally invested in their favorite teams. Players are financially invested in the teams they play for, and the best way to solidify that investment is by performing well regardless of the opponent.

So far as their teammates and the morale in the locker room? Please. You know what helps locker room morale? Winning football games.

I'd wager that if Larry Fitzgerald pledged to go off for 150 receiving yards and two touchdowns every time the Cardinals played the Vikings, Carson Palmer would buy him a Jared Allen Fathead and a purple t-shirt to wear under his jersey.

They don't care, and neither should you.

So, before you head to the closet, ready to grab your pitchfork and torch so that you can join that angry mob, just take a deep breath, sit back and relax.

Training camp will be here soon enough.


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