Don't Call it a Comeback
September 23, 2020

Does Cam Newton redeem the Patriots, or do the Patriots ruin Cam Newton?

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Maddie Meyer

I live in North Carolina, and if you're one of the many northern transplants like me (I've been here about a decade), one of the low-key annoying things is having to put up with Panthers fandom while you root for one of the depressing New Jersey teams. I'm lucky enough not to live in Charlotte itself, but I have been to a Panthers game (awful), and the Charlotte culture pervades when it comes to their semi-legitimate football team. For the last decade, obviously, the Panthers have been defined by Cam Newton. In his time with the team, he made the playoffs four times, and the Super Bowl once. He also won the Rookie of the Year award and an MVP in 2015. He's the greatest player by far in Panthers history, and for North Carolinians, he hung the moon.

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As you can probably tell, I'm a little cynical about the NFL in general, but even I have to admit that Cam Newton is (read: was) pretty amazing. Which makes it a little heartbreaking, even from a distance, that he went, of all cursed destinations, to the New England Patriots. This year, though, I've noticed something a little odd happening: All the Panthers fans are rooting for him. I guess it's not that weird, since this isn't Boston and normal people don't automatically hate everyone who leaves, but I thought the reality of the Patriots would put a serious damper on any ongoing Newton love. I expected the majority reaction to be, "I will always like and appreciate what Cam Newton did, but I will never root for the Patriots because they represent the agonizing death of all worldly justice."

Instead, like sad lemmings, all the Carolina people are actually pulling for him to win, and by extension have become a hotbed of Patriots fandom south of the Mason-Dixon. It was especially pronounced on Panthers Twitter on Sunday night, when the Pats almost beat the Seahawks, falling about a yard short:

So, we might as well entertain the delusion: Is Cam Newton, and his charisma, and what remains of his talent, enough to somewhat redeem the Patriots? Or is the stink of the Pats—the cheating, the scheming, the arrogance, the intolerable fan base—so overwhelming that it subsumes Cam Newton in its grotesque miasma?

Come on, America! You know the answer to this! There is no redemption for the likes of Bill Belichick and the swarms of Boston denialists, even if Tom Brady is off on his Florida adventure. This franchise is rotten to the core! They've stolen the goodness from the world and made our NFL lives pure misery for two decades!

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The way I see it, there are two choices here. First, you can say "Cam Newton is now a part of the Patriots organization, I hate the Patriots, therefore I hate Cam Newton." Totally fair. Second, if you're one of the Panthers fans who holds Superman in reverence, you can say "Cam Newton stopped playing for my team after the 2019 season, and I don't acknowledge anything that happened later in his career." That is also fine.

But liking the Patriots, because of one dude? I don't care if it's Michael Jordan, or Mother Teresa, or Gandhi, or any other universally revered figure from history. Don't go there. Don't sell your soul. One day, Cam Newton will be out of the NFL, but the shame of supporting the Patriots, even for one moment, will tarnish your own legacy forever. Is that really something you want to explain to your children, or your children's children? Stay on the side of good, my friends. Screw the Pats, and by extension, well...sorry Cam.