I’m thinking Rosemary Plorin of Nashville is feeling a little bit better about the letter to the editor she wrote to the Charlotte Observer in November about Cam Newton. It’s perhaps the most famous letter to the editor since 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote the New York Sun in 1897 wondering if there really was a Santa Claus.
Plorin wrote about how she was offended by Newton’s on-field antics during the Panthers’ win over the Tennessee Titans, and she wondered if he realized the negative impression he had left on her 9-year-old daughter who had witnessed Newton’s act.
“I don’t know about your family life Mr. Newton, but I think I’m safe in saying thousands of kids watch you every week,” she wrote. “You have amazing talent and an incredible platform to be a role model for them. Unfortunately, what you modeled for them today was egotism, arrogance and poor sportsmanship.”
Plorin was ridiculed for her letter in the media, but I’m thinking after Newton’s Super Bowl postgame act, she’s feeling a little vindicated about her letter.
I’m guessing most, if not all, of Newton’s critics feel vindicated after Newton’s short press conference, where he displayed the Plorin trifecta — egotism, arrogance and poor sportsmanship.
That’s the damage that Newton did to himself Sunday at Super Bowl 50. He confirmed what his critics have argued. Right or wrong, the perception battle that Newton had won over the course of the season was lost in that brief press conference, when he answered a few questions with surly one-word answers and then just walked off after three minutes.
The Newton apologists have resorted to the defense of the defenseless, pointing to others who have acted in a similar fashion. Yes, Newton was wrong, but he wasn’t the only one — as if that absolves him of the commitment he had to his team, fans and the NFL to be professional in that press conference.
They point to the beloved icon and winning quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, and argue that he walked off the field without congratulating winning quarterback Drew Brees after the Indianapolis Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
Those apologists leave out the fact that Manning posted in the postgame press conference and answered questions in a professional manner. He answered questions about what went wrong for him and his team, like Saints cornerback Tracy Porter’s 74-yard interception return for the touchdown that doomed the Colts. “He made a great play, made a great play,” Manning told reporters. “That’s all I can say about it. Porter made a heck of a play. It’s play we run a lot and he just made a great play.”
Manning also went out of his way to apologize for losing the game. “I know how excited our team and our fans and the city of Indianapolis were three years ago [when the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears to win Super Bowl XLI] so I understand how happy Saints fans and the city of New Orleans are,” he said. “On behalf of the Colts, I’m sorry to our fans that we weren’t able to get it done today.”
Newton? He wasn’t quite as professional. He didn’t stay around long enough to answer questions like Manning did about the interception he threw to cost his team the game — or questions about why he failed to jump on his fumble in the fourth quarter.
The apologists say this will be a learning experience for Newton, that he will grow from it, but that happens only if he believes he did something wrong. Based on what Newton told reporters on Tuesday when he cleaned out his locker, he doesn’t.
“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser,” Newton said. “If I offended anybody, that’s cool. … I don’t have to conform to anybody’s wants for me. I’m not that guy. This is a great league with or without me. I am my own person.”
The apologists also argue that Newton walked out of the Super Bowl 50 postgame press conference because Denver cornerback Chris Harris was explaining nearby how Denver’s game plan was to make Newton throw the ball. His sensibilities apparently were offended by that, which gave the MVP of the NFL the right to walk out — like he was backing away from a fumble.
It’s a good thing Newton didn’t hear what Broncos strong safety T.J. Ward told reporters after the game.
“Hey, when things don’t go his way, we see the body language — it’s obvious,” Ward said. “That’s what we wanted to do. That was our intent: to come in this game and get the body language going. We didn’t want the happy, fun-spirited, dabbing Cam. No, we want the sulking, upset, talking to my linemen, my running backs, ‘I don’t know what’s going on’ Cam Newton — and that’s what we got.”
Ward saw what Plorin saw in November.
Sorry, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. But Rosemary, the Cam Newton you saw? He’s real.
⦁ Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.