Cam Newton is perhaps the most polarizing figure in this year's NFL Draft. He is viewed with perhaps even more scrutiny than his former teammate Tim Tebow. Much of this skepticism is centered around Newton and his family's actions off the field as opposed to strictly his limitations on it.
In a recent phone interview with Sports Illustrated's Peter King, which for better or worse will likely make a significant imprint into Cam Newton's career, Newton was utterly transparent. As he expressed, "I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon,” many Newton backers winced.These types of interview comments can make or break not only a player's draft status, but also their career and how they are perceived by teammates.
But what if, just maybe, Newton got it right?
In a day in age where players, coaches and the like often keep things close to vest, deflecting queries with bland answers and many half-truths, is this honesty appropriate? There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Based upon the challenges Newton has already overcome, is this comment evidence of his realization of his progress, or another faux pas on his behalf?
How about an assessment of the statement that was tweeted by King?
"I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.”
Like it or not, Newton, and arguably any other NFL player, is an entertainer, and they are paid as such. Football in and of itself is a sport with players focused on a desire to win, but with its exhaustive coverage, intensive analysis and wide-spread appeal, the sport receives a focus that can only be matched by the entertainment world. It is, perhaps, a civil infraction to the finest degree to label NFL players as "just football players"—as if they were members of a rowing club.
Above all sports in American society, football is the most chronicled, the most exploited and the most popular. The Super Bowl finds more viewers in one day than many blockbuster films find over a weekend.
For comparison, the top grossing film of all-time, Avatar (2009), made $242 million during its opening weekend. This year's Super Bowl pulled in around $3 million for each 30 second advertisement during the game—there were at least 58 of those. That means that based on ads alone, this year's Superbowl hauled in $174 million!
If you add in the $2,309 on average that each of the 103,219 people in attendance paid to get in, you get a grand total of over $412 million dollars between just ads and ticket sales for the game. With numbers like these, James Cameron has to be wondering why he didn't cast Aaron Rodgers, instead of Sam Worthington, for the lead in his film.
I will not make mention to the small group of fans who decided to watch the game from home, but NPR will.
Based on numbers alone, Newton is spot on in his assessment of his place in society. Being a quarterback who led his team to a national championship and an early draft pick, he will undoubtedly be seen as an icon, whether he likes it or not.
While Newton's assessment of himself may be spot on, his statements have not been well received by everyone.
But is this level of confidence necessary for an athlete of Newton's stature? Perhaps even required? Recent draftees such as Mark Sanchez have exuded heightened levels of confidence even in the face of character concerns.
Sanchez was arrested for sexual assault as an underclassmen, later acquitted and then, against his coaches advice, declared for the NFL draft after just 16 collegiate starts. To date, Sanchez has been to back to back Conference Championship games and is perceived as an icon in the New York area and the fashion world.
Recent talents like Daunte Culpepper, Vince Young, Michael Vick and Jamarcus Russell, all of whom Newton has been compared to, did not exude this level of confidence at any point in their careers. In fact, it is perhaps their inability to handle the spotlight that led to the problems they had both on and off the field.
One omission from the wide circulation of that comment is Newton's statement that “God has given me this platform.” To me, this alone speaks less of an alleged Hubris that Newton has, and more to an inner-assurance and deep-felt conviction that allows him to believe in his abilities and the divine favor upon them.
Like many big time prospects who have had trouble in college, Newton could have flamed out, been rendered ineffective and totally fallen off the map (ala Ryan Perriloux, Adrian Macpherson etc). Yet he did not do so, and this resilience speaks more about Newton's intangibles than perhaps any pre-draft sound bite could.
Only time will truly tell what these comments mean for Newton's career, but perhaps he isn't as far off as everyone might think. Perhaps in the future, transparency will be the hallmark of Newton's career to the benefit of the sports world.