Why everyone has it wrong about Cam Newton and his Super Bowl news conference

There's a problem brewing in America. It's a certain lack of empathy for people, an expectation that no one, especially athletes, is allowed to be human and make a mistake. Cam Newton is learning this the hard way.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback was anointed as the chosen one through the recently concluded NFL season. Fans and so-called NFL experts were saying he was the future of the game, the new face of the league. He was named league MVP the day before the Super Bowl.

Then Newton played a horrible game and his team lost to the Denver Broncos, 24-10. With a big smile on his face, Newton congratulated Peyton Manning before heading to the locker room.

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Then it all came tumbling down. In the post-game news conference, an obviously subdued and depressed Newton didn't answer questions the way people thought he should. He gave short, one-word answers to some questions. All the while, in the background you could hear a Broncos player talking about how they dismantled Newton, knowing he couldn't handle the pressure. Newton, hearing all of this, decided to get up and leave.

The Internet reacted with outrage. Memes were created mocking Newton. How dare he not sit there and answer questions! Take it like a man! Steve Young and Deion Sanders criticized him for being immature, which is rich coming from Sanders, who once dumped a bucket of water, not once, not twice, but three times on Tim McCarver because McCarver had dared to criticize him.

How about looking at it like this: A young man of 26, in the most important game of his career, had perhaps his worst performance ever. He had to have felt like he let his teammates and his fans down. So he reacted like a human being. He was subdued and depressed. That doesn't make him a poor sport.

If he hadn't gone over and congratulated Manning and the Broncos, then that would have made him a poor sport. But giving short answers at a news conference and walking out because he could hear the Broncos criticizing him? That makes him human.

Ask yourself what you would have done if you had turned in the worst performance of your career in your profession, letting your co-workers down and ruining a moment you have been working toward your whole life. When you were 26. In front of a stadium full of people and over 100 million watching. And then you had to answer a bunch of questions about it.

In a perfect world, Newton would have sat down and answered everything. But it turns out that we don't live in a perfect world. And it turns out that Cam Newton is human. Take a look in the mirror because so are you. So how about having some empathy, because one day you will need some empathy too.

Follow Houston Mitchell on Twitter @latimeshouston 

or email himhouston.mitchell@latimes.com.

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