We say America likes a winner. It speaks to our values and our heritage. We are a nation born of hard work, commitment, and perseverance. Those traits made us great and still make us great. The harsh reality of my opening sentence, however, is that it’s not true. Not in sports. We like a winner only when we see his face rubbed in the dirt. All the better if it’s an inglorious fall riddled with humiliation. We not only want the humiliation to happen, we want to watch it happen and bathe in it like warm, soapy water after a camping trip. It just feels so good.
You don’t believe me? I’ll illustrate it clearly with three examples.
- Tom Brady. Tom Effing Brady. Just the name makes your blood boil, doesn’t it? I could expand this discussion to encompass the entire New England Patriots franchise, but I don’t need to in order to make my point. You should like Tom Brady, but you don’t. Not unless you are a Patriots fan. If you’re not a Patriots fan, you not only don’t like him, you despise him. That bastard. Those movie-star good looks. The super-model wife. Four Super Bowl rings. Ten trips to the AFC Championship. And those Ugg advertisements. Ugh!! You have deluded yourself into believing that you hate him because he is a cheater. Or a whiner. That has nothing to do with it. You hate him because he wins, and he wins a lot. He has probably won at your favorite NFL team’s expense countless times. He wins because he has a competitive fire and a strong will that is very, very rare, even at the elite NFL level. You should like him. He presents a great story. He was disrespected for a very long time. Even at Michigan, all he did was win, but he couldn’t hold a starting job because Drew Henson was more of a prototypical big-time quarterback. Then comes the NFL draft. He was the 7th quarterback taken that year at 199th overall. He was left on the cutting room floor – completely disrespected. He was drafted behind Spergon Wynn. Spergon Effing Wynn. And yet here he is Tom, still battling with the league’s best at the age of 38. What a great American story, right? That’s why you hate him.
- Cam Newton. Cam Effing Newton. Cam stirred a lot of interesting emotions entering this Super Bowl. I would not call him verbose. I would say he speaks his mind and doesn’t pretend to be someone he is not. I find that admirable. The two cases in support of the Cam-haters are that he stole a computer at the University of Florida and that he celebrates too much on the field. Regarding the computer, he paid for his crime and left the school. He gutted out a year at a Junior College before transferring to Auburn and dominating college football in a way that I haven’t seen since. If you can’t live with the fact that he paid for his crime and then moved on, then there is no use in further discussing it. Does he celebrate too much on the field? I think so. It certainly isn’t my preference. But I’ll tell you this: he’s consistent. He did it when they were 7-9, too. The difference is that back then, no one much cared. It wasn’t an issue until he started winning, and winning a lot. That’s when everyone started to notice. They not only noticed, they started getting pissed. I will admit there are a lot of Denver Bronco fans in this country. Additionally, there were a number of football fans who wanted Peyton Manning (swoon) to go out on top. But by far the largest number of fans who picked sides in this Super Bowl did so only with an interest in seeing Cam Newton pummeled and disgraced. How dare he flash that million-Watt smile and have fun while going 15-1! It’s time for him to be put in his place! What stories dominated the Super Bowl’s aftermath? Cam lost. Cam humiliated. Cam quit. Cam fumbled. Cam sacked. Cam disgraceful. No, I was not impressed with his presser, but so what? He’ll learn and he’ll do better. Herm Edwards and Tony Dungy will see to it. Give the kid a break. He’s twenty-efffing-six years old. At that age, my drunk ass was getting fireman carried through a dark alley in Hong Kong by one of my squadron mates. Forgive Cam for not being raised from birth to play quarterback in the NFL like……
- Peyton Manning. Ahhhh, Peyton. Just the thought of him makes you dizzy with infatuation, doesn’t it? The smell of roses in the air. We can’t get enough of Peyton. He makes us want to cook chicken parm and eat Papa John’s Pizza. And the family. Oh, that family. Don’t you just love them? Archie. Eli. That other brother. There are a lot of reasons we like Peyton. In spite of the fact that he was a front-runner every year, he never won the Heisman trophy. His college teams were good but never brought home the hardware they thought he would help them acquire. He played for the Colts without much of a supporting cast. He finally got a well deserved Super Bowl win, though more often than not, he wilted in big games. As we’re reminded by the announcers 1000 times per game, he’s a “coach on the field”. Even in the midst of this most recent Super Bowl win, he had the lowest quarterback rating of any winning quarterback in Super Bowl history. Anyone with a football brain knows that John Elway is praying he doesn’t come back. Yet we love him like no other. He’s the kind of guy we can get behind. We’re comfortable with him. He just fits. It feels like we could hang out with him and have a Budweiser. He blends that “aw shucks” every-guy demeanor with the characteristics of a Southern Gentleman. You get the impression that you have a lot in common with him. Only you don’t. He is football royalty. The biggest controversy (before HGH allegations – oh my!) in his life was choosing Tennessee over Ole Miss, his father’s alma mater. But he’s our man. He has given us enough success to celebrate with enough failures to make us comfortable with our own stumbles.
Maybe we should quit over-analyzing athletes and just accept them for who they are. I’d wager our best role models are found elsewhere.
Then again, we could opt to selectively express our outrage while ignoring gems like this from Super Bowl MVP (does he count as a role model, now?) Von Miller after playing an incredible game against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. With regards to Tom Brady…
I tried to rub my nuts on his face.
Finally, some class. Stay in school, kids!
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