Cam, oh Cam.
You were my guy all season. I watched you dance on the sideline, you made my heart sing with every football you handed to a young fan, and I cheered the incredible plays you made. I could not get enough of that smile. I applauded your community involvement, both on and off the camera. You seemed to genuinely care about kids, and that’s number one in my book. In fact, you seemed to genuinely love Charlotte.
Maybe that is why I loved you right back.
You reminded me that there is joy and happiness to be found in sports. You seemed to understand that “playing” is indeed an important part of all sports, even for adults making a lot of money. It was fun watching a big kid, on and off the field, loving his life.
You dabbed, I dabbed.
I said over and over again – Cam is a great athlete who is also a role model. Many times I said it to people who did not share my same level of enthusiasm. I still said it – that’s how I roll.
Let’s be clear about one thing, though. I also said that Greg Olsen is a role model. My family loved seeing him in our church on Saturday nights before home games. His humble presence at our local bagel shop was always a treat and his family’s strength and resolve and generosity is inspiring.
Luke Kuechly is a role model. He embodies hard work, focus and commitment to his team. His kind gesture to a fan who fell over the railing…icing on the Kuechly cake. Humility wrapped up in, well, a pretty nice-looking package. He is the real deal in terms of a role model, too.
Thomas Davis is a role model. Ron Rivera is a role model. Michael Oher is a role model.
Your team, Cam, is a team made up of role models and you were, fairly or unfairly, standing waaaay up in front.
You are not everyone’s cup of tea…but you are mine.
The main reason – I believe 100% that what we saw this season was real. I believe you are authentic in your joy and kid-like enthusiasm for the game. I absolutely believe that you do you.
And here’s the thing – when people are authentic, they are always authentic. Not perfect. Authentic.
You, Cam, are authentic.
You are taking a lot of heat for that very trait…and maybe you should. I cringed during the post-game interview. I wanted to hear more from you – at least more than responses mimicking my own teenagers feeble attempts at conversation after they have their phones taken away…
You, however, are still a role model in my opinion. That authentic, flinch-inducing, please-say-something, excruciating 3 minutes last night was nothing short of real. Real disappointment. Real sadness. Real frustration.
I like REAL people. I want my kids to be REAL.
Thank you, Cam, for the conversation I had last night with my own kids. They were disappointed, too. We talked about what it must feel like, after that loss, to have to sit and field questions from the press. Questions that interviewed you for your pain. We had a chance to put ourselves in your shoes and talk about it. We talked. We had to step outside of ourselves and see the game through your eyes. We practiced empathy. We talked about other ways to handle the situation.
Here’s the thing, Cam. I know what a role model is….and what a role model is not. You gave me chances to parent my kids – which is my job. Your job is to be a great football player. And by being that great football player, YOU allowed ME to have conversations, so precious and rare in the teenage years, about important topics.
We talked all season about joy. We talked about what it means, as student athletes themselves, to compete while keeping the love of the game. Every smile from you showed us that.
We talked about how everyone (yes everyone) makes mistakes. We also talked about how mistakes do not define us in the present moment. We can overcome mistakes (ummm, thank GOD we can)- we have seen that from you.
We talked about kindness. And bringing others into our own circle of light. Every football you handed out was an example of sharing your light.
We also talked about pressure. We talked about being named MVP, the press coverage, the weight of an unbelievable season…. We talked about people who like to see the chosen fall. We talked about race – thank you very much. We talked. And talked. And talked.
Thank you, Cam, for every “talk” I have had (and will have) with my kids. I do not expect perfection – from any of the role models on the Panthers. Authenticity is what I want (and, of course, the avoidance of any illegal activity).
It’s my job to raise my kids. Thanks for making that easier (and way more fun).
You. Do. You. And that is EXACTLY what Cam does… True to himself. Without Apology. Again, thank you Cam Newton. You are what is right in sports today.