Too bad they don’t make Band-Aids for feelings. Ahead of the biggest game in an already storied career, these words rings truly significant as we weigh the impact of one, Cameron Newton, on the great pantheon of football and society at large. On the precipice of making history, Cam stands unique, not necessarily for his tools, one could argue that his closest comparison historically is John Elway in terms of physical gifts, nor his skin color as all five black starting quarterbacks this season made the Pro Bowl. Both these things though significant are not the secret sauce with which he makes his gumbo. No, the reason Cam stands out unlike any other black quarterback with supreme physical gifts before him is the inherently rebellious nature of his blackness.
Let us get one thing out of the way before readers attempt to lambast this writer with the tired old retort of, “are you trying to say Cam is in some way more black than peers and predecessors?” The answer to that is of course no, blackness in no way can be measured or standardized in such a way that you can line people of color in a row and have the real slim shady please stand up. All that is to stay, Robert Griffin (the so called “Cornball Brother” shout out to Rob Parker) and Russell Wilson (who though wears terrible Hawaiian shirts and somehow manages to make Macklemore look cooler than him) are in no way at a level of blackness that is minute in comparance to Cam Newton.
To be unapologetically yourself in a world that demands you do everything but that, is in of itself an act of rebellious defiance. As much as you would say types like Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, and Doug Williams opened the door, a player like Cam Newton has widened the entrance, refusing to couch his personality for mainstream consumption. While his forebears were forced to be in a position where they had to ensure that they did not show up anybody with their personality and play on the field, Cam Newton has done the opposite. He seemingly has come to the all important realization that regardless of what he does the people who love him always will and the people who look at him like this is the Playa Haters Ball sketch from Chappelle Show always will be just that, haters. With every dab, “disingenuous” smile, picture taken on the sidelines with famous rappers (which by the way Future is Phil Jackson-esque for posing with the man who took down the man who is with his past woman), and football thrown into the eager waiting arms of children after touchdowns Cam Newton refuses to let you take away his flavor so he is more agreeable with your palate. As such he is shifting the paradigm of what we believe is necessary to be a successful quarterback in this league by forcing us to embrace his blackness in all its pomp and circumstance.
The quarterback position is still dominated by white players and has always called for a person who is quiet in his confidence, complimentary to opponents, and humble to a fault. Or rather that is what we are told are necessary conditions for success at being a leader of men. However, it is all in the packaging, because where Tom Brady is described as passionate Cam Newton is said to be immature, where Peyton Manning is appropriately confident, Newton is the patron saint of the arrogant. Never mind the obvious hypocrisy in these judgments as Tom Brady is usually one moment of yelling at a teammate from losing his front canines, or that in order to be successful at this level there is a necessary amount of arrogance. Still, like society at large, common sense and rational thinking is often set aside when the topic of race is introduced.
The standard of excellence for blacks in all walks of life demands something bordering on perfection in order to just be tolerated. You are allowed to excel as long as you do not remind us that the person we let into this smoke filled back room is of a skin tone much swarthier than our own. You are allowed to ply your trade relatively unmolested, just make sure we are not confronted with the fact of your roots and history of subjugation at our hands. Be something that is easy for us to digest, and maybe just maybe we can begin to be okay with you being the face of a franchise. It will not happen right away, be patient, it is a process like long cut collard greens. Yet here stands one, Cameron Newton, unapologetic, smiling into the eye of the storm, letting you know he is not here for your paltry tolerance, and cares not one iota if your feelings are injured during his coronation tour. For as we all know, they don’t make Band-Aids for those.
Catch Jotham finding the perfect pairing of cognac and girl scout cookies @JothamKitara on twitter and instagram.