I was in the middle of a Twitter rant last night about Cam Newton's post-Super Bowl press conference, and the reaction to it, when my Twitter friend @heatherberm summed up what I was trying to say in 10 words:
Cam should talk, reporters should get a grip, rinse, repeat.— Heather B. (@heatherberm) February 8, 2016
Look, we're adults here. So we know that more than one thing can be true.
The post-game press conference is such an awkward thing on a lot of levels. It is odd to expect eloquence and self-reflection from athletes who have just spent hours playing a physically and emotionally draining game, and especially ones who have just endured a physically and emotionally draining loss. It's rare that anything important or memorable is said at these press conferences. But reporters go and demand that players go. Not because the process is useful. But because it's institutionalized. It's just the way things are done.
Also, reporters place a value judgement on how a player acts after a loss. It's a sign of character and virtue. We love and respect the guys who stand up in front of their lockers after losses and answer our questions. It's a badge of honor we bestow. I've done it too. Why this is - whether it's a reflection of our ideas of sportsmanship, the fact that doing so makes our jobs easier, that being treated with respect makes us feel good - I'm honestly not sure.
The real troubling part for me is when this becomes an issue of character. I don't believe that Cam Newton walking out of his press conference makes him any less "classy" than Peyton Manning answering questions after a loss makes him any more "classy." Let's be frank here: Classy, in this context, is a loaded word with a specific connotation involving race. It's the same way "thug" has a specific connotation when used in context.
Cam Newton can be criticized for his post-game behavior. Of course he can. I'm just leery about doing so because he violated some code of the press conference or that doing so is some kind of referendum on his character.
If you can't write a good story about Cam Newton because he walked out of his press conference, you're just not trying hard enough. In fact, you can probably write a better story about him than if he had sat there and done a Derek Jeter impersonation, saying cliches about working harder next year.
But, all this being said ... Cam Newton still acted like a jerk last night. He shouldn't have pouted through his press conference and walked of - simply because you always have a choice whether to act like a jerk or act like a good person, and even after a really awful day, it's always better to act like a good person.
Life isn't a hot take. More than one thing can be true.