All Superbowl Week long Cam Newton was out and about, parading himself with grand splendor. At ever turn he used the word "I" when talking about his team's "sure-thing" victory in the Superbowl. In one pre-game interview Newton said "Man, America and the NFL ain't seen nothing like me...ain't nobody brought the kind of god-given skills I bring to the game". That was Newton all week; shucking and jiving and talking about how great that ring was gonna feel. Indeed, he bragged as if he had already won it.
All Superbowl week Peyton Manning deflected attention from himself...instead he praised his team and commented about what a pleasure it was that his team let him in on the ride. (How many teams did Peyton heft up on his back and carry them to victory during his long and storied career!) Now, an aging quarterback, beset with injuries, slowed by age, his arm no longer the rocket launcher it once was, Peyton chose to show just how big his heart is.
On the Saturday night players meeting, the last one he'd have with his teammates, Peyton went around the locker room, shaking hands, thanking them for allowing him along for the ride, and urging them to play for themselves and not for him.
No one was left out of Peyton's "thank you" tour around the locker room; the equipment guys, the towel guys, the team gophers...no one was too unimportant to ignore.
When the game was over Cam Newton sat in defeat, hiding within his hoodie, pouting, sulking, even failing to respect the press by refusing to look them in the eye. He gave one word answers; clearly letting the press know that they were too far beneath him to deserve respect.
Meanwhile, the press was all over Peyton Manning. He sat and answered their questions at two different press events. He praised his God and he praised his family and he praised his teammates.
And, given a hundred chances to make this Superbowl victory about him, he would not even announce his retirement...he simply did not want the world's attention diverted from this Broncos team that played their hearts out in victory. Time and again Peyton thanked the team for allowing him along for the ride.
And how does Peyton Manning handle loss? Simply go back two years and watch his interviews after that crushing Seattle defeat; he was there to answer questions, to praise the other team, and to praise his own team.
Last night we saw how Cam Newton handled a loss. We had seen him shuck and jive all season, we had seen his antics after a touchdown in the end zone, we had seen how he zoomed in like an airplane, onto the field and saying "look at me..aint' I great!" ("You folks ain't seen nothing like me!!!")
So last night, after getting sacked six times, getting hurried even more, after a dozen errant passes that missed their mark, and after even refusing to fall on his own fumble, lest his magnificent body get hurt, Cam Newton sat post game, with dark hoodie and dark soul, and hugged himself.
Peyton Manning stood in the glow of a magnificent career, a career spent on lifting others up...and he hugged his family and he hugged his teammates...and that is the real test of a champion...in victory, or in defeat.
Cam Newton has never learned that...I don't think he ever will.