Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Open Letter to Cam Newton

I detest the whole “Open Letter” thing. It’s become passé and overwrought. But, since this is playing out on the national stage I thought I would give it a go.

     Mr. Newton
         I’m writing this to you as a result of your recent comments regarding your behavior after the Super Bowl on Sunday. I have a problem with your behavior, and with your continued sulking and pouting and so, since you played this out on national TV, I thought I’d respond publicly as well.
You need to grow up.
This is life, kid. People lose big games. They lose much more. They lose jobs. They lose houses. Dreams die before ever getting off the ground. Parents lose children at a young age and never get over it. Young couples try and try and never are able to have children.
The love of your life dies too soon, or decides they don’t love you anymore and they leave you suddenly. This is life. This plays out thousands of times a day and the people who face life after disaster have to suck it up, pick up the pieces and soldier on. This is a hell of a lot more important than the Super Bowl.
Your defenders continue to say “Unless you have walked in his shoes, you can’t judge him. You don’t know what it’s like to fail with 150 Million people watching.” Actually Cam…I know something even more heartbreaking. Sure, your loss took place on a worldwide stage. But half of the onlookers were cheering for you. They love you and wanted you to get up and win the fight. It was not to be this time, and they love you regardless. After the game, you pouted, sulked, whined, growled, and finally stalked off like a petulant child, who was just told “No!” for the very first time.
You know what is worse than losing a battle in front of millions of fans? You know what hurts more than your dreams dying in public view?
It’s when your dreams die and not a soul notices or cares.
You want to know how I know? Because I’ve been there.
When the economy collapsed in 2008 I lost my career. The industry I worked in vanished. I was 45 and could not find a job. I lost my home. With that I lost my pets, my ability to have my daughter on weekends anymore. (Thankfully, her mom and I are divorced and so her mom still had a place to live.) I lost my sense of accomplishment and worth. I felt like dying.
And nobody noticed.
Precious few people cared how I was doing, or asked about where I was staying. I lived in my car, showered at the county rec center and nobody noticed. Every single night for the first two years I lived like this. Every single night I wanted to give up. That is tragic. Not losing a stupid football game and then whining about the questions they ask you, or the fact that you could hear your opponent’s statements from the other room.
Life is tough and nobody cares how you feel about things. You put your head down and pick yourself up and do better. And if you are a real man…you do it with dignity.
I tried to do exactly that. I was homeless. I literally slept in a Volvo 850 that I would hide behind a church. It hurt. It hurt more than this loss you just experienced ever could.
I cried myself to sleep some times because I love my daughter and I was worried about how this would affect her. I worried that maybe it was never going to change. I wondered how I could ever change it. But all the while, I tried facing it with dignity because –while you had millions of people watching you falter- I had only one. My daughter. But she was the only one that mattered Cam, and so I endured this battle with dignity because I knew I was setting an example. I wanted to pout, I wanted to scream, and I wanted to bark at every stranger who walked across my path. But instead I did what I could to hide the fact that I was homeless and I faced it all with dignity.
You need to learn what that word means and what it looks like.
You need to apologize to the world for sulking and pouting and making the whole event about you. You need to stiffen your back, face your failings and shortcomings, and have some dignity and some humility. Humility is not the same as humiliation. Jesus was humble. Einstein was humble.
I can deal with your exuberance and your dancing and your dabbing and your youthful ridiculousness. But I can’t sit by while people defend you on the grounds that I have never failed in the public eye. I’ve done something far more painful.
I failed alone.
You drove home to your nice estate and your nice life and your adoring fans. I had a beat up old car and a sleeping bag. You will have another chance next fall. It took me almost six years to get another chance and rebuild my life.
I didn’t have time to sulk. I went back to school and finished my bachelor’s degree…while still homeless. I stayed active in my daughter’s life, while still homeless. I started a business because I still couldn’t find work…while still homeless.
In all that time, I was beaten, I felt defeated, I was depressed, I was sad, and I wondered if things were ever going to change.
But I behaved with dignity.
My daughter was watching. And whether 150 million additional people had been, or if I endured all that alone with only her eyes seeing me…I HAD to behave with dignity.
Manhood is tough. Adulthood is tough. Responsibility is tough. Your profession affords you the easiest life imaginable. Football is hard work. I get that. But you are well paid for your efforts and it affords you a dream lifestyle.
Almost no one else has that benefit. Most of us struggle in anonymity, wondering if anyone cares at all. Most of us have no resources to rebuild after loss, so we work multiple jobs and sometimes…we sleep in cars and finish our degree and hope that somehow we get that second chance.
That’s what being a grown-up is. It’s time for you to be one. You are 27. That’s not “young and immature” that’s a full-grown man. Suck it up, buttercup. This world, the league, these fans, your opponent, the press…they owe you nothing. Everything you have and everything you will gain is because of the fame and opportunity that football provided you. You have the opportunity to live a life that almost every other soul on this planet only dreams of. You have NOTHING in this world to whine about.
I think you are a good man. I enjoy the fun you have and the way you seem to "get-it" that the fans are the reason you play this game. I genuinely like you. So this doesn't come from hate.

Next time, take your lumps like a man. Answer the questions, smile when it hurts, and be gracious. Because if you can’t lose with grace, you will not win with grace. There are lots of people who would trade places with you and they’d be gracious and dignified all along the way.  Time for you to do the same.

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