As I sat at my desk and thought about what topic I should tackle in this week’s “What’s the Deal?”, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton practically gift-wrapped an issue for me when he commented on the two interdivision games with the Atlanta Falcons the Panthers have to play each season.“It’s always a heavily critiqued game…,” Newton told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’ve always been a Falcons fan, and I’m still a Falcons fan except for those two times a year.”
Naturally, the Internet blew up on Newton, who is from College Park, Georgia, especially after the debacle that Colin Kaepernick went through following his decision to wear a Miami Dolphins hat last week. After all, why would Cam Newton have ever rooted for a team other than Carolina? It’s not like he ever spent any time during his youth watching the NFL, dreaming of one day playing among the likes of some of his heroes from nearby Atlanta…
The truth of the matter is that NFL fans are very particular when it comes to their players rooting for other teams; to put it simply, if you are able to win, nobody cares what teams you pull for besides your own. If you want proof, just take a look at Tom Brady: arguably the best quarterback of the last twenty years, Brady has three Super Bowl rings, two MVP awards, one smoking hot model for a wife, AND was/probably still is a diehard San Francisco 49ers fan.
In the ESPN special “The Brady 6”, Brady talked candidly about how much he loved the Niners growing up and how he held out hope that the team would take him during the 2000 Draft, only to be left disappointed and discouraged when the team instead selected Giovanni Carmazzi from Hofstra. Maybe I missed something, but I never heard a peep out of Patriots’ fans once this documentary came out concerning where Brady’s loyalty was, probably because they were too busy idolizing Tom Terrific to even notice that he had even mentioned another NFL squad.
Another NFL player spoke about their personal fanhood this week when Larry Fitzgerald talked of his love for the Minnesota Vikings, a team that he got to know personally due to his status as ball boy in his youth. I noticed that a few blogs that I frequent mentioned this story, but it did not get a quarter of the attention Cam’s comments did, which frankly is understandable. I believe that Fitzgerald got a pass on this whole issue for two reasons: 1) the actual time he spent with the team as a ball boy and 2) his own status as arguably the best wide receiver of the 2000s.
It is not fair to call out Cam Newton because he grew up loving a team that is now considered one of his team’s biggest rivals, because I’m sure if you polled QBs across the league he would not be the only one in that situation. However, you can understand how from the franchise’s standpoint it may seem like a slight to talk about an opponent in a positive light and how from a fan’s view that your team’s starting quarterback should not be concerned with any other franchise other than the one that calls Bank of America Stadium home.
So as of now the talk of Newton’s love for the Falcons will be no more and will presumably be that way, of course, until he delivers the Panthers a Super Bowl championship. After that, he could literally have the word “Falcons” come out of his mouth 24/7 and hardly any Carolina fan would notice or even mind.