Any mystical force that might be punishing the Panthers stems from how their QB acted after the Super Bowl, not how he treated a 12th Man flag.
If karma is an actual entity in this universe, then I have to agree with Richard Sherman.
Under the presumption that mystical forces punish upsetting acts, then Cam Newton is getting what he deserved.
Nine months after a trip to the biggest game in sports, the Panthers quarterback and reigning MVP is sitting on a 4-7 record with a straight-flush’s chance of making the postseason. Karma? Perhaps.
But it’s not because of what he did with a Seahawks fan’s flag — it’s because of how he acted after the Super Bowl.
We’ll start with the first part.
Following Carolina’s 31-24 win over Seattle in January’s playoff game, Newton became the chief source of the Emerald City’s rage. During a victory lap in the Panthers’ home stadium, the 27-year-old snatched a blue-and-gray “12” flag and threw it to the ground.
Never mind that the fan stuck the flag an inch from his face as Newton was making his rounds, which would have caused just about any player to react similarly. This was a capital offense in the minds of everyone who had ever tossed their support the Seahawks’ way.
What the average 12 doesn’t acknowledge, however, is that they would have lionized a Seahawk had he done something similar. Sherman made a national name for himself when he disparaged the 49ers’ Michael Crabtree after Seattle’s NFC Championship win — an act local die-hards defend staunchly. And whether it’s Doug Baldwin’s faux defecation in the Super Bowl, or Michael Bennett picking on Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford every chance he gets, not-so-sportsmanlike gestures are generally embraced in Seahawks Land.
That’s why it was a little surprising to hear Sherman’s response to a question Wednesday about whether Newton crossed the line with the flag toss. Said the cornerback: “Yeah, he probably did. I guess karma gets you. Doesn’t look like they are going to the playoffs.”
Damn. As the kids say — sick burn. And the quip made national headlines in a way only Sherman could.
The only thing is, Newton didn’t really do anything egregious. The act was in line with the cocky, celebratory persona he’d been boasting all year. He would dab after huge plays, dance in the end zone and demonstrably signal a first down whenever he or a teammate passed the marker.
A lot of people weren’t so fond of his flamboyance, but personally, I thought it was fun. Then, well, the Super Bowl happened.
If you recall last February, the 17-1 Panthers fell to the Broncos 24-10 at Levi’s Stadium. And in that loss, Newton completed just 18 of his 41 attempts and finished with a passer rating of 55.8. It was his worst performance of the season … until his postgame news conference, where he answered nearly every question dismissively and monosyllabically.
If it were just about anybody else, such a response would have been acceptable. The Super Bowl is the most-watched event in sports and the lifelong dream for most of its participants. Being composed, or even polite, in that situation is a lot to ask.
But when Newton has no problem rubbing it in to opponents after an MVP-caliber play or taunting fans after a touchdown, he can’t suddenly start pouting when he’s on the unenviable end of things.
Of course, some defended Cam, saying He could hear the Broncos celebrating during their interviews! That just drove the nail in further. Except that that’s the worst defense possible. The argument there is that while it already sucks to be on the losing end of a game or a play, it really sucks when the opponent is talking about it. Problem is, Cam was more guilty of that offense than anybody in football last year.
You can’t say “it’s just a game!” when defending one set of antics, then act like it’s more than a game when defending another. In fact, Newton’s visible pain after that game helps justify many of the taunting and celebration flags officials throw, which contributes to the NFL earning the “No Fun League” tag.
But hey, Newton is young, and he likely learned from that experience. It wasn’t an unforgivable act, and it won’t define his career.
Still, if karma exists, then Carolina’s struggles are reasonable payback. And as a result, Seahawks fans are waving their flags with a lot more pride than Panthers fans.