The wisdom of winning at losing

Sunday night was a blast for me. For the first time in five years, I was able to relax, have some guacamole, and just enjoy the game at home. Where I live, there are Bronco fans everywhere, including members of my wife’s family. I like the Broncos, and really like Peyton Manning, so I was happy they were in the game.

I’m from Florida, so my favorite team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – an NFC South team, Carolina’s division. Being loyal to the division, and really liking Cam Newton as well, I was glad to see them in the game.

So I cheered for the blue team …

It was a great game if you like defensive chess-matches, which I do. It was such a good defensive game that neither QB played that well, and these were arguably the two best QBs in the league.

But in the winning and losing, something was very different. Manning was gracious and humble in victory, only because he had previously learned how to lose. Newton, who could have learned this lesson the easy way from Manning, is now learning it the hard way.

In the post-game press conference, a hooded Cam Newton slouched in his chair like a pouting teenager and proceeded to answer questions in barely audible grunts … kind of like, well, a teenager. He then walked out.

To be fair, Newton was in earshot of another press conference where Bronco’s defensive back, Chris Harris was talking about how they were able to stop Newton. But this happens, and would have been flipped had the Panthers won – Bronco players would have been within earshot of a victorious Can Newton. It’s the nature of the post-game media gauntlet.

This is also not the first time a defeated Super Bowl QB acted less like a Superman and more like an Incredible Sulk, to use Eric Adelson’s depiction. Peyton Manning pitched his own hissy fit back in 2010 when his Colts lost to the Saints 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV. Peyton left the field without congratulating Drew Brees, or any other Saints player.  While some commentators made excuses for his behavior, Peyton’s place as Captain, role model and professional were questioned and criticized. It hurt him, but he learned from it and became a more humble winner and a more gracious loser for it.

Like Manning, Cam Newton is an amazingly talented athlete. He is loved by his community, and has the potential to represent the best in what it means to be a compassionate competitor; one who is as focused on helping their community as they are on inspiring their team to win. In my opinion, I think Newton may exceed Manning in many areas of play but certainly exceeds Manning in the magnetism of his personality. He is electric, exciting, inspiring, and he loves his Mom. I think Cam Newton can lead the way to an exceedingly bright future for the NFL.

That’s what made it hurt. The brightness of Newton’s star and the attention grabbed by his confident swagger made Sunday night painfully disappointing. I see how many kids look up to Cam. How many of them saw an attitude Sunday night that they’ll internalize and imitate on the playground this week?

I believe Cam Newton is better than his Sunday night self. With the help of coaches and some honest mentors (not the entourage of yes-people that can often surround such celebrities), I think he can reflect on his behavior Sunday night and realize something essential: That as good as he is, and as much as he wants to win, to be truly great requires learning to win at losing.

Such a lesson will communicate maturity and humility to kids and stability in leadership to fellow players.

With the Sherriff likely riding into the sunset, we’re looking for Superman. Cam, we need you.

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