There has to be something more to it. We want there to be more to it. If there isn't we should feel ridiculous tweeting sports shows or posting about the societal meaning of sports and fan psychology. What is it that makes it more than simple entertainment? It is the shared emotional experience between fans and their team. Fans experience the emotional highs of victory and the lows of defeat. If they didn't, rabid fans wouldn't go as far as to sacrifice their careers to preserve personal attendance streaks.
Today, Tampa Bay produced a sore loser--one who expressed his emotional disappointment by lashing out at superstar quarterback Cam Newton, who was instrumental in the whopping the Panthers put on the Bucs yesterday. Crazed fan writer JCDeLaTorre described Newton as classless in victory, and even called for notorious headhunter Dashon Goldson to teach the "smug" quarterback a lesson. Possibly more absurd and offensive, he attempted to diminish Newton's performance in the Panthers' shellacking of the Bucs, foolishly decrying "No Cam, you're not that good."
The Tampa Bay fan writer continued to flail, like a Buccaneer who just walked the plank, by charging Fox broadcaster Pat Kirwan with hero worship and ridiculing Miami favorite Jimmy Johnson's consideration of Cam for MVP. It's clear JCDeLaTorre didn't see the clinic Cam Newton and the Panthers put on the Bucs this past Sunday. JCDeLaTorre's emotional view, however, undermines the depth the shared experience fans have with their team. It's time for him to endure the loss, rather than to dismiss the Panther victory as showboating gallantry.
JCDeLaTorre isn't all wrong. Carolina's defense is nasty, and their front seven is even nastier. The league's leading Panther defense put it on the Bucs yesterday. This loop of Star pretty much sums it up.
JCDeLaTorre praise of the Panther defense is about the only thing he got right right when it comes to the Carolina's dominance. Cam Newton valiantly engaged the Buccaneer defense, heaving shots at their bows and ripping the little wind from their sails. He was clearly the most powerful weapon in the Panthers' offensive arsenal. Cam completed 62% of his passes, threw 2 TDs, and rushed for 68 yards. Cam established his offensive command early, ripping off a 56 yard run on the second possession. Newton immediately followed with a damaging TD shot to Lafell. The Bucs never recovered. Newton continued the barrage with another TD in the air and personally boarded the Buccaneer ship, killing any last hope with a 4 down TD rush.
If JCDeLaTorre had watched the game, he would have seen that Kirwan's description was accurate. Those "better incomplete passes," JCDLAT takes issue with, were big time drops by Panther receivers. Ted "Stone Hands" Ginn, Jr. again dropped catchable balls, and even one of Cam's INTs deflected through Lafell's hands. Even a blind fan listening to the radio should have been able to see that Cam led Carolina's offensive attack yesterday.
But there's more to it than that though. Even a far-sighted NFL fans should recognize that Cam's successes this season span beyond his devastating performance against the Bucs. The Panthers are currently on a league best 8 game winning streak. This success has not been despite Cam Newton, but instead greatly because of him! Yes, the defense has more than kept us in games by allowing less than 13 points a game. Yes, Carolina is gelling as a team, putting together complete performances. The real substance of Carolina's offensive success, however, has been because of Cam. He has led multiple fourth quarter game winning drives, been a leader in overall passing efficiency and quarterback rating, and, most importantly, played poised, determined football. He has matured tremendously this season as both a player and a leader.
So, is Jimmy Johnson really that absurd and calling for Cam's consideration as NFL MVP? I don't think so. It's hard to believe the Panthers would be in the position they are today, vying to win the NFC South and possibly the NFC, without Cam. Arguably Carolina's first superstar, Cam has become the face of the Panther franchise. Unfortunately for those drunken pirates down south, he is here to stay. Cam looks to be more than the proverbial thorn in the Buccaneer side. On the contrary, he just may be the the scariest adversary coming from the Carolina's yet--one who may just subdue those Buccaneers for the next decade.
Part of the fan experience is sharing more than the feelings of victory, but also enduring the emotional experience of defeat. I can only imagine how irritable a Buccaneer with wounded pride and sand in his trousers can be. There really just isn't anything to celebrate in Tampa right now. There is in Carolina, however. Cam is a big part of that celebration.
We'll have to leave JCDeLaTorre with a few poignant words from JFK, who once noted that "victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan." Well it doesn't look like the Panthers are the orphans in this case, but it does kind of look like Cam is the Bucs' daddy.