Here’s the best way to illustrate the difference between the NFL’s past and its future.
Snoop Dogg on Thursday asked — in song — Cam Newton to “dab for me.”
Snoop asked Peyton Manning, meanwhile, to cut him a deal on Papa John’s pizza.
After an interminable week of hype and talk, Snoop did the best job of highlighting all you really need to know about the biggest matchup of the biggest game on the planet.
Manning is an institution, the consummate salesman for both himself and his league.
Newton is a rock star who talks — and dances — how he wants, when he wants.
Consider Super Bowl 50, between Newton’s Carolina Panthers and Manning’s Denver Broncos, the NFL’s line of demarcation.
Manning is from the Greatest Generation of quarterbacks.
Newton is a millennial through and through. He unironically wears T-shirts of his own likeness.
And bad news for his army of haters: This is the dawning of the Age of Cam.
“I think it’s his moment,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, “as well as it’s our moment.”
If Manning shocks the world — along with the betting public — and wins Sunday, it would be a triumphant closing chapter to a legendary career. But it also would be a nostalgia act.
Manning hasn’t been at his best in years — his touchdown-to-interception ratio (9-17) and passer rating (67.9) were both career lows — and the Broncos are in the Super Bowl despite Manning, not because of him.
But if Newton prevails, he would solidify himself as the No. 1 young star in the league — and perhaps the biggest overall.
“I’m given a stage, and what I do on that stage means a lot for people who I’m going to actually meet and for people that’s watching this live and saying, ‘Damn, Cam’s cool,’ ” Newton said during one of his four nationally televised news conferences last week.
“For these same people that are saying, ‘Hell, I hate Cam,’ either way, I’m going to stay true to who I am and try to fulfill the things that are important to me.”
It’s an attitude that has made Newton the most polarizing player in football and the perfect yin to Manning’s yang.
This is nothing new, of course.
Remember when a brash quarterback whose clothes were as loud as his words went against the clean-cut, All-American dean of quarterbacks?
Not much has changed in the 47 years since Joe Namath wore the black hat to Johnny Unitas’ white.
And we all know how that story ended.
Manning, naturally, is hoping for a different plot twist in what might be his final game. He hinted at that during his not-so-private chat with Bill Belichick at midfield after the AFC Championship Game.
TV microphones caught Manning telling Belichick that this might be his “last rodeo” — although he has since tried to diffuse any retirement talk.
Said Manning: “I haven’t made up my mind, but I don’t see myself knowing that until after the season. … I kind of stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand and just deal with this week. That’s what I’ve done all season.”
Manning will be 40 when the next NFL season begins, and he’s not a young 40.
He missed the entire 2011 season because of a significant neck injury — he jokes that he “had more neck surgeries than snaps” that year — and revealed recently that he will need a hip replacement someday.
Plus he missed six games with a foot injury in 2015 and had to win back the starting job from backup Brock Osweiler.
Manning also is dealing with an NFL investigation into allegations that he might illegally have used human growth hormone — a charge he categorically denies.
So it’s fair to expect that Manning won’t be at his best Sunday. Just don’t try telling that to the Panthers.
“Peyton Manning — the name speaks for itself,” Carolina defensive tackle Kawann Short said.
Said Rivera: “They are opposites. Peyton said it best: [Newton] scores touchdowns that [Manning] doesn’t score, but at the same time, Peyton scores touchdowns that some other people don’t with the way that he throws the ball. He’s a tremendous football player. He’s had a tremendous career. He is a Hall of Famer, and we know that.”
To crib a line from Snoop: Get ready for the next episode. It might be Manning’s last.