Cam Newton is an Atlanta native, led his college team (Auburn) to an SEC championship and then a national title his lone season on campus, probably is the most entertaining quarterback the NFL has seen since Michael Vick (before he jumped the rails) and now has led his team (Carolina) to the Super Bowl.
There are a number of ingredients there that should make him popular on the Atlanta sports scene, and probably does with some. But Newton also seems to be as vilified a sports figure as you're going to find with area sports fans, particularly on social media. One numskull actually Tweeted this to me Sunday night:
Why such scorn? Here are some reasons:
• He's not one of us! Allegiances to an athlete who was born in a city and went to a local high school (Westlake) dissipate quickly when that person leaves to play for a heated rival college of Georgia's -- first Florida, then Auburn, but that's another story -- and then play professionally for an NFC South Division rival of the Falcons (Carolina). Never go against the family, Fredo.
• He's a crook! OK, there was that stolen laptop thing when he was a backup at Florida. That led to a suspension and prompted him to transfer to a community college in Texas. Then there was his father's attempt to pimp young Cam's services to the highest bidder in the SEC. (Cecil Newton reportedly told Mississippi State boosters it would take "more than a scholarship" for Newton to enroll there and we heard stories of six-figure demands.)
Newton wound up at Auburn. No evidence ever was uncovered that he or his father received cash. This all led to a messy handling of the case by the NCAA (shocker!). The NCAA suspended Newton on a Tuesday, and for only a Tuesday -- Nov. 30, 2010, four days before the SEC championship against South Carolina. The reason for the suspension: Cecil Newton's solicitation. But there was a widespread belief that Newton had gotten away with something. And then Auburn won the SEC and BCS titles and Newton won the Heisman Trophy and, well, that just made it all worse.
• He's a showboat! Yes, soccer moms are very upset that Mr. Cam Newton has no conducted himself in a more professional manner. He dances. He points. He gloats. He smiles that big, phony, in-your-face smile. (Nice teeth, though.) But those same soccer moms wouldn't have a problem if one of their team's players did all that. Letter-writing soccer moms also fail to recognize that Newton picks out a child in the stands to hand a football to after every touchdown. Are Newton's antics a bit much at times? Sure. But they're all in fun. Every Falcons fan thought it was charming back in the days of Billy "White Shoes" Johnson's dance. If you don't like what Newton does, don't let him get into the end zone. Or don't watch.
• That team is arrogant! Yes. Young winners often are. It's why Falcons fans will tell you the 2015 season had two highlights: 1) The 5-0 start; 2) Handing Carolina its only defeat in the 15th game. But if the Panthers' words or antics get you that fired up, there's probably also a bit of envy there. As in, "I wish that was my team." Want to shut up the Panthers? Beat them? Want to stop Cam Newton from dancing? Stop him. The Falcons did. Somehow.
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