Cam Newton is not a politician. He does not want your vote. That is why he was in North Carolina, not New Hampshire, on Tuesday.
But Cam Newton is a role model. Just maybe not for everyone.
"They say 'Cam's a thug,' they say players on [the] team are classless…straight up, we are professional athletes," Newton said while cleaning out his locker. "Like I say, before you assume anything, what makes your way right?"
More Cam... pic.twitter.com/zyVB49kKSN
— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) February 9, 2016
For the next nine months, politicians will blow a lot of hot air. Perhaps none will give as true a statement as Cam Newton gave Tuesday.
What makes your way right?
Cam Newton is a black man who wears do-rags to work and dances at his opponents' expense. Like it was with Deion Sanders, the pioneer of this style, Newton has become lightning rod for controversy.
But in many ways, Newton fits the traditional mold of athlete role model. He is a winning NFL quarterback. He respects fellow competitors and officials on the field. He is a fierce philanthropist in the Charlotte and Atlanta communities, he makes it a point to deliver touchdown footballs to young fans and he has a variety of national endorsements, including top brands such as Gatorade and Under Armour.
Have people forgotten the Play 60 commercial?
After losing the Super Bowl, he did not do the "admirable" thing and "face the noise." Instead of giving the media long answers, he mumbled a few words and escaped the podium while reporters' pockets overflowed with more questions.
Watching this on TV, as a millennial, I pondered whether Cam Newton had done anything wrong. Is talking to the media after losing the Super Bowl "part of the job" of being an NFL quarterback?
The answer is no. For decades, athletes have been expected to talk to the media every day after playing a game for a living. The media have reaped this benefit and used quotes to strengthen their stories.
This time, the media missed the story. The story is that Cam Newton had one of the greatest quarterback seasons in recent memory and he did it with a noticeably high level of competitiveness. He displayed that personality to the end.
Newton led an offense of Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn Jr., Corey Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Devin Funchess and Jonathan Stewart to a 15-1 record. He willed the team to a series of narrow wins late in the season. For all the crap the media give Newton, even his nastiest critics, who call him a thug, have trouble calling him unselfish. Newton's teammates lauded his presence all season, and most of his touchdown celebrations included choreography with offensive teammates whose names we will forget in a decade.
At 26 Newton is now in his prime. He was the NFL's best player by leaps and bounds from Week 1 to the NFC Championship Game (with 265 passing yards and 45 rushing yards.) He was probably the best offensive player in a lackluster Super Bowl too.
This was Cam's year. The stars aligned for him to cap off an 18-1 campaign in Santa Clara. On the biggest stage, Newton and the Panthers' offense were frustrated by a veteran Broncos defense that also dominated the season from start to finish. Newton's worst quarterback rating of the year came in the Super Bowl.
When Newton took the podium, he could have acted like everything was fine and fed the media some good quotes. But Newton's ultra-competitive spirit still had a few minutes before the offseason, and he was being true to himself by not embracing defeat.
A bunch of B.S. quotes would not add to that story.
"I'm on record as being a sore loser," Newton said in Carolina Tuesday. "I hate losing. You show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser."
Haters will take this quote and say, "Cam Newton does not get it." He 100 percent gets it. He is rolling with the criticism and throw it back in the critics' faces. It is very Kanye West-esque. You don't have to agree with his opinion. You don't have to think it is right. You can respect it, though.
Is Newton even a sore loser? Sore losers whine and cry and blame anyone but themselves. He did not go Bob Knight and throw chairs across the interview room. Newton did not say much, but read the quotes. Rather than complain, he tips his hat to the Broncos:
"They just played better than us. I don't know what you want me to say. They made more plays than us, and that's what it came down to. We had our opportunities. There wasn't nothing special that they did. We dropped balls. We turned the ball over, gave up sacks, threw errant passes. That's it. They scored more points than we did."
— Cam Inman (@CamInman) February 8, 2016
Again, that is the story. Cam Newton invested a year of his life into this team. When it came down to the biggest moment, the Panthers put their best foot forward, but the Broncos played a better game. There is no finger-pointing, blaming officials or blaming coaches.
Newton could have made some stuff up. He could have conformed to the expectation of "good loser." Instead, he spoke honestly. "They just played better than us."
There is a Panthers organization and a pocket of this country in the Southeast that loves what they got. Fans want athletes to care. Newton cared more than anyone. On Sunday, he felt like he let them down. Are we not willing to give our athletes a moment after suffering a devastating loss in the premier event of their profession?
Last August, I was in the U.S. Open press conference room when Serena Williams stormed in and out with tears in her eyes. Was it the most traditionally classy appearance after a loss on the verge of history? No. Did I understand it? Yes. As part of the media, I realized the story was Williams' competitive pursuit of history and how it had ended in dramatically unexpected way. Some flowery quotes from Serena would not change that dynamic. Williams showed that even at 33, with all the titles she has, she still cared. Is that not what we want from our athletes on the highest level?
Cam Newton may not fit the traditional mold of role. But he sticks to who he is and tries his best to succeed for his team and city. For some, that is they need.
Cam Newton would not win a New Hampshire primary, but he sure as hell could win North Carolina.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.