2011 NFL Draft: Why Cam Newton's Pursuit of Icon Status Isn't a Bad Thing

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2011 NFL Draft: Why Cam Newton's Pursuit of Icon Status Isn't a Bad Thing
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

“I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.”

In the words of Scooby Doo, "Ruh-roh."

It is understandable, albeit slightly contradictory to the nature of professional sports, that a statement such as that caused the reverential stares at Cam Newton to regress into worried glances.

After all, words such as “entertainer” and “icon” indicate a desire to broaden his celebrity to where he appears on magazine covers as much as SportsCenter.

It implies he wants to date celebrities and hang out in LA. It implies that he’s already preoccupied with expanding his value off the football field before he’s even proven worthy of playing on one at the professional level.

Players like Chad Ochocinco, who are viewed as more diva than diehard, are what scouts imagine when they hear “entertainers.” Win or lose, it doesn’t matter, just as long as everyone enjoyed the show.

Guys such as the aforementioned Ochocinco or Shaquille O'Neal, Terrell Owens and Ron Artest all exemplify that attitude and have subsequently had their values drop below what they should be simply because they weren’t worth the headache.  

But the point has to be made that, despite the sacred nature of football, despite the Die on the Field attitude showcased by certain gridiron warriors, despite the spiritual attachment small markets like Green Bay have with their team and despite the cultural impact the Super Bowl championship-winning Saints had on a still recovering New Orleans—football IS entertainment.

Modern sports is a world where Lamar Odom is more recognizable for marrying a Kardashian than Kevin Durant is for being the youngest single-season scoring leader in NBA history. 

There is a reason Wilt Chamberlain’s legacy outlived Bill Russell’s, even though Russell was generally deemed the better of the two when they were both active, Wilt’s is, quite simply, more interesting.

Chamberlain combined an intriguing personal life with a polarizing playing style. People will discuss for hours whether he could put up big numbers in today’s league, his ball-hogging, his womanizing and how he would regularly skip his own team’s games when he was a head coach.

Or look at this next example.

Michael Vick, while not intentionally, has been followed by a media circus and whirlwind of coverage since he broke back into the NFL. 

Hasn’t it also been the best possible thing for him and the Eagles?

One of the most valuable ways a player can affect his team is by keeping it relevant in the national scope. Vick started on the NFC Pro Bowl team, and he did this because America cared about him.

Vick created a situation where fans had no choice but to pay attention.

Going to jail and losing crucial years in his prime should have derailed his career, but it actually did more to enhance it than any of the seasons leading up to his arrest.

Nobody who witnessed Vick’s downfall, repentance and rejuvenation will ever forget it, not 50 years from now, even as they're trying to figure out the name of that QB that led Green Bay to the Super Bowl in 2011.

As long as audiences are tuning in, does it matter in the end whether it is just to see what touchdown dance T.O. has in store?

There is no harm in an athlete taking note that his window of relevance is extremely small compared to almost every other job, and it shouldn’t be considered wrong that he wishes to take full advantage of this opportunity, whether it be behind center or in front of a camera.

What better way for a struggling franchise to garner fan interest than using a draft pick on a controversial quarterback with a quirky playing style?

If it turns out to be an absolute failure, keep the faith.

Andrew Luck is right over the horizon.

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