Selfish in Defeat

By Bob Hiller

Well, friends, I am simply elated. The smile has not left my face in days! All that yelling and pillow biting and making a complete jerk out of myself in front of friends and family has finally paid off! My Denver Broncos are Super Bowl champions! I could not be happier. Watching that defense manhandle every single top level quarterback in the NFL this season (Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers…not so fast Philip Rivers…) has been like listening to a beautiful symphony. Wade Phillips truly produced a work of art. For me, reveling in the Broncos third Super Bowl victory is pure delight.

So, I couldn’t wait to listen to sports talk radio this week and hear all the commentators eat crow for picking against Denver. And they did. No one expected this victory. Cam Newton’s offense was too good, they said. Manning is too old to produce, they said (actually, that was entirely true on Sunday). Carolina was just too dominant. Alas, Denver proved them all wrong. No one expected that defense to stomp Cam Newton the way they did. Especially Cam himself.

This season, Newton has been under some (somewhat contrived) criticism for his on the field antics. He is known for “dabbing” after touchdowns, for being too enthusiastic when his team is crushing other teams, and for acting immaturely. Now, truth be told, I’ve loved watching Carolina all year. I think Cam looks like a kid full of joy, not someone trying to shame others. Sure, some people tweet out criticism, but so what? By and large, people have enjoyed Carolina this year.

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But, then Carolina met Denver’s defense and ran into a brick wall. Cam, apparently, couldn’t handle it, and that kid full of joy turned into a spoiled brat. Though he looked gracious in defeat with Manning on the field, he proceeded to show up to his post-game press-conference pouting under his hood. He was curt toward the reporters. After a few moments of questioning, he abruptly and rudely walked away from the microphones, clearly upset that he had to be there.

Until yesterday, I had little problem with this. Dude was angry. He could apparently hear Denver cornerback, Chris Harris, Jr., talking about the Denver game plan in the background. It was a rough moment. I get why he walked off. It makes sense to me. However, I don’t think that makes it okay.

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There are a few takes I’ve heard about Newton’s immature behavior after his loss. The first was his own. Says Newton, “I’ve never claimed to be perfect…I’ve already told you I’m a sore loser…show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser…I don’t have to conform to what anybody wants, I am my own person…Before you are quick to assume anything, what makes your way right?” Really, Cam? Are you justifying a hissy fit with moral relativism? Sheesh.

The second take I’ve heard also sought to justify Newton. It did so with much the same logic that Cam used with himself. People say, “Hey, at least he was being authentic! That was better than all that scripted garbage we get from the other players.” Since, somehow, authenticity is a virtue in our culture, this makes Newton actually look like a hero for what he did. He showed his true self, and isn’t that what is really important? Who cares if his true self pouts like my kids when they don’t get dessert? At least he’s being authentic!

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Then there’s the third take which says that Newton was immature and wrong. He should be a leader in the good times and the bad. So he hates losing. Does a great leader like Tom Brady love it? Does Russell Wilson or Ben Roethlisberger look forward to a loss? There is a mature way to handle losing and an immature way, and Cam, say the critics, took the latter.

I think this last criticism may be on the right pathl; however, it came from so many corners with such a self-righteousness that it started to disgust me. Who of us is ever at our best when everything we’ve worked for is taken from us? There was always a better way to handle our stupid actions. But, in the heat of the moment, we all act like jerks.

In response to this, the LA Times ran a piece where “America” was called to be more empathetic towards poor Cam. Cut the guy a break! After all, he’s in a bad place. Don’t expect him to do more than you would in that moment. In other words, he’s in a bad position, therefore his immaturity is justified. And you and I should have more empathy for a dude who just got his rear handed to him.

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Though I agree that we have a serious lack of empathy in our culture, I wonder if the Time’s piece isn’t missing something here. Cam acted like a spoiled jerk. And even if we were all selfish in that situation, it doesn’t actually justify the action. It just means that we all have the same problem: we’re selfish in defeat! And that is never “OK,” no matter the circumstances. Sure, I can empathize, but empathy doesn’t justify immaturity or any activity for that matter. It just means I can put myself in another’s shoes. I’m no more in favor of the person who condemns Cam’s actions than I am in favor of the one who justifies his immaturity. We’re all a disaster.

Perhaps another route ought to be taken here. Instead of looking upon the sins of others as an opportunity to condemn them, or to condemn others who condemn them, we should take that opportunity to repent. You, me, Cam, we aren’t justified because we all sin under difficult circumstances. Quite the opposite in fact. Damned is more like it. And, only the One who put on our shoes, not to empathize, but to forgive can offer us any hope in this wretched body, and world, of death. Newton’s actions are a call to repent, not judge. Repent of your sins. Let Jesus worry about justifying sinners in His own bloody way.

Anyhow, back to the Broncos. I’ve recorded the game. If you want to watch it again, come on over. There is a minimal cover fee to come and see it though. I’ve got to start raising money for next year’s Super Bowl!

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2 thoughts on “Selfish in Defeat

    1. Sure. Sometimes I write about baseball and basketball, too!

      John, I’ve been asked to write about sports and theology, so that’s what my blog covers. I know it is rather ham-fisted, but I am trying to give a take on what is happening in the world of sports with a theological spin. So that’s the reason for the constant sports talk in my pieces….they are pieces about sports.

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