VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – Sports, MAS has often heard it said, are a metaphor for life.
Coaches and parents in the U.S. have long preached that determination and teamwork are two important keys to both winning an athletic contest AND success in human endeavor.
Now, unfortunately, U.S. sports have also become a reflection of the ever-deepening ideological divide existing in America.
If you doubt MAS, you haven’t been paying attention to the fallout from the Cam Newton touchdown dance fiasco.
Forget football. The opposing philosophical stances taken on the hoofing issue reflect the growing gulf between the two sides in America on how the game of life itself should be played.
In case you missed it, Newton, Carolina’s star QB, went into a mild bump-n-grind routine (called “dabbing”) after tallying a touchdown versus Tennessee in Nashville recently.
A Titan defender saw Newton’s celebration as rubbing his team’s nose in it, so to speak.
He then went after Newton but officials stepped in between the two before a physical confrontation could take place.
A Tennessee fan, a mom who had attended the game with her daughter, was repulsed by Newton’s dance moves and ordered her child to look away.
Afterward, the mom then wrote a letter to the Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer newspaper excoriating Newton for setting a poor example as a role model.
This set a huge nationwide reaction in motion.
Battle lines were quickly drawn.
Everywhere in print and on radio and TV, writers and commentators aligned themselves on the pro- or anti-Newton side of the fence.
As did their readers and viewers.
People either saw Newton as a braying jackass of a self-celebrator or as a happenin’ dude who had earned the right to bust some end zone moves and to mime tearing open his shirt like Superman.
Though Newton was at the center of this particular controversy, beneath it all, the uproar was really about appropriate sports celebrations in general.
And, to a greater extent, acceptable human behavior.
You could drop a stone into the chasm that exists between the opposing points of view on Cam’s choreography — and what it represents — and it would still be falling.
Some samplings are in order.
A female online sports columnist for Sports Illustrated (a mother of two herself) responded to the letter-to-the-editor by opining that the fault lay not with Newton but with the offended mother.
The SI columnist contended that because Newton had supported children’s charities and worked hard to make the NFL, he had earned the right to joyful expression.
And, the scribe added, the complaining mother would have been better served to pen a missive griping about Dallas’ Greg Hardy, convicted of domestic abuse but still permitted to play for the Cowboys.
The reader comments on the column were about 50-50, give or take a couple of percentage points either way.
Roughly half the readers gave the author a big “hear, hear.”
The rest basically said her thinking was moronic and represented the reason the U.S. was coming apart at the seams.
Over on TV, talking heads also tackled the issue of whether Newton’s actions were overthe-top or okie-dokie.
One interesting back-andforth was almost predictable.
It featured Mike Ditka, the old school ex-Chicago Bear player and coach versus Keyshawn Johnson, the former New York Jets receiver and poster boy for debatable on-field flamboyance.
Johnson, of course, defended Newton’s actions. Keyshawn said Cam had earned the right to a spontaneous celebration.
Ditka said he found nothing wrong with Newton’s dance but wondered aloud: Whatever happened to “acting like you’ve been there before?”
Iron Mike was clearly indicating his preference for a more understated type of “cool.”
Johnson then referred to Ditka’s thinking as that of the last generation, adding that these were new times.
That may be partially true, but not entirely right.
The lady who wrote to the Charlotte paper was the same age as Johnson, as were many of the commenters who lambasted the SI piece.
Cris Carter, Hall of Fame receiver, was on the same Ditka-Johnson panel and offered a different take.
He contended if foes didn’t like Newton’s antics, they should simply stop him from reaching the end zone.
Interesting viewpoint but sort of a rip off of the old “If you don’t like someone rolling up the score on you, then keep them out of the end zone” stance.
Brian Mitchell, a former premier kick returner for the Washington Redskins and now a D.C. studio analyst, defended Newton, chalking his actions up to the sheer electric reaction that for four or five seconds shoots through your body upon hitting pay dirt.
His on-air counterpart rebutted Mitchell’s claim, calling Cam’s routines carefully predetermined and classless.
Newton supporters contend he is just an exuberant, fun-loving guy and since he’s in America, he has the right to freedom of expression.
They emphasize his good deeds, such as his work with handicapped and underprivileged children, as proof he’s an OK Joe.
Cam’s detractors see him as a horse’s arse who should show more humility and less braggadocio.
If Newton really cared about kids’ development, they say, he would set a better example on the field.
They also see him as a frontrunner — happy and entertaining when things are good but sullen and uncooperative the minute things go south.
What’s sad about this dichotomy of Newtonian thought is that neither side seems to be hearing the other.
Each camp is too busy shouting at and ridiculing the other.
There is no dialogue.
No potential for compromise or change that will leave all satisfied with the outcome of L’Affair Newton.
On a larger societal scale, does all this sound familiar?
If you’re a Yank, it should.
A similar situation exists in daily American life, outside sports.
All you have to do is watch TV news or read the newspaper or the Internet in the U.S. these days.
Liberals vs. conservatives. Left against right.
Very little common ground.
Moderates, it seems, are dinosaurs.
Instead of somehow meeting each other halfway for the good of all, Americans are now drifting even farther apart in their thinking.
The stone cast into that chasm is traveling deeper by the day.
And sadly, invoking another sports metaphor, nobody’s really winning.
Rather, the U.S. is losing — big time.
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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