I'm not a football fan, but I watched a little bit of the Super Bowl two nights ago just because I'd read a little bit about Cam Newton, and found his personality to be ineffably, unmistakably black, the same way Deontay Wilder's is.
He expresses his joyous egotism so utterly without inhibition and artifice it's almost endearing. He's the kind of athlete the press used to describe as a "man-child," though you don't hear that phrase much anymore because of its racial implications.
Pretty much everything the press has been saying about him is true. Yes, it's inappropriate for him to celebrate his touchdowns so gleefully when his team is losing. Yes, a little more self-awareness would be nice. And yes, he should have made more of an effort in the post-game press conference on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Peyton Manning is generally regarded as the epitome of good sportsmanship.
I don't see things as being quite that simple.
Yes, Manning carried himself graciously in victory, shaking hands and exchanging hugs with all sorts of people, saying all the things he was supposed to, and sharing credit whenever possible.
But it's pretty obviously all an act. Manning does what he thinks he's supposed to do, and says what he's supposed to say, rather than just be honest.
As far as the honesty goes….Manning may or may not have taken the human growth hormone which was mailed to his house; I'm having a hard time buying the claim that it was just for his wife. That comment about how he was going to drink a lot of Budweisers that night also raised suspicion. If he didn't have a sponsorship deal lined up with them, why would he not have just said "beers" instead of naming a brand? And mentioning that he was going to take some time to thank "the man upstairs" sounds good. But if you're truly religious, why not just thank Him quietly without broadcasting that fact?
Manning does deserve credit for being one of the all time great quarterbacks, if not the greatest. Even more than that, he deserves kudos for being incredibly tough, surviving as an NFL quarterback until age 39.
And there's certainly something to be said for having the discipline to always behave graciously. Societies can't function if people don't act as they're supposed to, rather than reverting to a childish petulance.
But at the same time, if everyone put on act the way Manning does all the time, the world would be a pretty boring place.
Newton, by contrast, didn't try to fake anything. He was disappointed after the game, and didn't try to hide it. He didn't bother to recite any of the usual cliches about how his team would get 'em next time, and didn't bother to praise the Broncos or Manning, other than to sullenly say they executed better.
Good sportsmanship is always nice. But c'mon, does anyone really believe the gracious loser ever means what he says?
Yes, Newton is all the things people have said: an immature braggart, a sore loser, and an out of control egomaniac. I'm not arguing with any of that.
I'm just pointing out that at least he's not a phony. And there's something to be said for that as well.