Cam Newton has swagga. His game is a wonderful combination of power and intelligence and finesse and, this year, unmatched success. His words make some people uncomfortable and others want to stand up and cheer so, yes, he’s polarizing. And swagga is polarizing. The way he dresses, the way he celebrates, the way he sulks, it seems unique and trendsetting and, again, unique and trendsetting is a part of having swagga.
So we’ve established Cam Newton, a super nova in the constellation of stars at this Super Bowl, has “it.” He’s got swagga.
And, Cam Newton, because of this demeanor of yours, this game you have, this approach you take, some people are freaking out. And you have said it is because you are a black quarterback. And others have said it is because you don’t show the game respect, or celebrate too much, or play kind of differently.
But it is none of those.
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It is your swagga that is causing these tremors beneath the NFL landscape now.
I know this because I’m from Miami and the 305 has long been familiar with all the criticism and outrage and everything else you’re seeing for the first time. My town is familiar with the so-called hate because it is familiar with swagga.
Miami, you see, invented swagga.
Back in the day we didn’t call it swagga, which is the urban dictionary term for the English word. We called it swagger.
And we first saw it from the Miami Dolphins in the 1970s.
Ever see him play? Ever see him walk? Swagger.
Mercury Morris? Ever listen to him talk? Swagger.
Larry Csonka? Jake Scott? Nick Buoniconti? Swagger. Swagger. Swagger.
Ed Reed had swagger, right? He played for the University of Miami. But did you know Dick Anderson was Ed Reed 30 years before Ed Reed was Ed Reed?
We didn’t realize how much swagger the Dolphins had in the early days, their heydays in the 1970s, because they didn’t advertise it. But then the University of Miami football team burst onto that national scene in the ’80s.
And they advertised it.
Today, some people are upset at Newton’s dab celebrations and Superman outfits and first down proclamations?
“I don’t know,” Newton says, “but I guess you’ll have to get used to it, because I don’t plan on changing.”
Yeah, that’s fine for South Florida because we watched Randal Hill run up a tunnel and practically out of a stadium to celebrate a touchdown in the Cotton Bowl. That was over two decades ago.
Hurricanes defenders stood over a fallen Troy Aikman, writhing in pain because his leg had just been broken, and our guys celebrated.
Michael Irvin celebrated a first down catch or two or 100 in his time at Miami.
And guess what? The media of the day called it classless. And demanded the Hurricanes tone it down. Just like some in the media today are saying you should also tone it down, Cam Newton.
They just don’t get the swagga.
You think folks are upset or criticize you because of your race.
“I said it since Day One: I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,” you said.
That’s your opinion. You’re entitled. But my opinion is we’ve seen black quarterbacks before. We’ve also seen black quarterbacks at the Super Bowl before. And, I get it, you think a black quarterback with your size and strength who can be both pocket passer and mad athletic outside the pocket is unique, right?
Well, ever watch Vinny Testaverde? He played at the University of Miami. And he was 6-5 and 240 pounds. And he could run. And he could launch footballs into orbit.
So Miami has seen your game before.
Miami, by the way, is big on Super Bowl games because we’ve hosted 10 of them -- more than any other region in the country. And we remember that John Elway played in one of those at Pro Player/Sun Life/Landshark Stadium and then retired, going out on top.
And like you, Elway was fast. And like you, Elway could throw the football out of a stadium. And like you, Elway could run like a deer. And like you Elway was as big as many of the linebackers of his day.
We saw Elway and Testaverde play in Miami. So we’ve seen players who compare to you.
Oh, no, those two aren’t black. But we didn’t notice what color they are. You see, Miami is kind of a melting pot of white and black and brown and red and everything in between. And, yes, we have had and continue to have some racial issues.
But not on the football field.
Miami, by the way, is fully capable of hating a quarterback. We hate Tom Brady. It has nothing to do with his race.
Anyway, back to the swagger, um, swagga thing.
We had a quarterback play in South Florida that had some swagga. No, he isn’t black. No, he couldn’t run.
But like you, he was handsome. Like you, the television cameras loved him. Like you, he believed he was Superman every time he stepped on the field. You may have heard of him?
Marino once said this about his game: “There is no defense against a perfect pass,” he said. “I can throw the perfect pass.”
You, Cam Newton, often quote your father. You, Cam Newton, have handed out so many footballs to children after your touchdowns this season that just about every nine-year-old in Charlotte has one.
And that’s awesome. But the quarterback remembering dad’s advice and loving on the kids is not new to Miami.
“My father always taught me to appreciate what you’re fortunate to have and give back to those who need it,” Marino once said. “No part of our society is more important than the children, especially the ones who need our help.”
Look, there is this attention grabbing, criticism stirring, divisiveness expanding awe inspiring trait in Cam Newton that baffles and bewilders some people. The rest of the country is busy this week trying to explain it, trying to understand it.
Well, Miami knows what it is and what it isn’t. It isn’t about his race. Or his position. Or his game. It is about that thing with which Miami is intimately familiar.