His goal is to win football games and inspire joy, in that order. “I’m not trying to sound like Charlie Sheen, but it is. The opposing quarterback, Peyton Manning, minutes away from retirement, his right arm as light and wavy as a car-wash balloon. But it just plays back in my mind, knowing that it was plays to be had.” He hates to lose. He’s a born performer—all you have to do is watch him on the field, or moving powerfully through an Atlanta shopping mall, to know that. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Here he does the gesture, his two giant hands parting an imaginary business suit to reveal the logo underneath. A few days after his son was born, but before anyone knew, Cam celebrated a touchdown against Atlanta by gently rocking an imaginary baby on the field. and bragged about telling Newton that he couldn’t get any tattoos or piercings as a condition of being drafted by the team. “If you’re losing, it’s like, Then the Panthers started winning—a lot—and all of a sudden maybe leadership wasn’t actually Cam Newton’s problem.We live life, like, America, we’re taught to become, you know, successful, and success comes with winning.” This is a guy who Recall his post-Super Bowl press conference. Shrouded in the cowl of a post-game hooded sweatshirt, minutes removed from losing the most important game of his life. Instead, Cam had his worst performance of the season—sacked six times, intercepted once, fumbled twice, once on what could’ve been the game-winning drive, then failed to fall on the ball. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law—does not command respect from teammates and always will struggle to win a locker room. Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness—is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Then, a few days later, after the Panthers had lost the Atlanta game, their first and only loss of the regular season, he posted a statement announcing the birth and asking for privacy in this joyous time. “Only thing changed was that our record was pretty bad.” Then it was pretty good.

Maybe he feels fatigue at having to have this conversation with any random reporter who thinks he’s entitled to his thoughts on this subject. I’m all about learning.” Fascinated with those who came before him. I read, you know, certain magazines, just to try to get hip to certain people’s vibes.” He says he’s been watching ESPN’s O. It talks about everything around him, from the socio-economic problems that we had to everything.

Maybe losing the Super Bowl, and hearing all the criticism of Cam Newton that poured out afterward, left him in a place where he just wanted to retreat, at least in front of a reporter, and for once in his life just not be responsible for explaining away the cruel and insinuating things that other people say about him. And it’s just a day back in the history, and to keep people hip to what or where we came from.” everything.” Then they gave him his own show, about helping kids accomplish their dreams. “Not necessarily saying that the older generation isn’t important. He says that Chosen’s helped him grow up, become a better man.

Plenty of players wear that kind of punishment on their faces after a while. Only the hands give him away, the fact that he plays a borderline blood sport for money and our entertainment. More than 300 yards passing, 100 yards rushing, five passing touchdowns in a single game, the first player in NFL history to do that. It’s this quality, paradoxically, that has led to some of the most savage and consistent criticism of Cam Newton. The salesman at the cigar store, Ben, a friendly guy with a bushy beard and a green tie, just lights up like someone shot off a bottle rocket in front of him. He told the football writer Peter King he wanted to be considered an “entertainer and icon” in addition to a football player, and America reacted like that isn’t exactly what we want our quarterbacks to be. “I just sound reasonable to me,” a then 75-year-old Richardson said. 1 because his teammate and future backup, Jimmy Clausen, already has Cam’s old number, No. He sulks after losses; his own coach, Ron Rivera, calls him “Mr.

A battering ram that handles like a BMW.“The optimism of football brings people together closer than any other sport,” he says, and that’s what Cam wants to do. Especially after things like that press conference, which confirmed to doubters every bad thing that’s ever been said about him. Pro scout Nolan Nawrocki, 2011: Very disingenuous—has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. When he and his girlfriend, Kia Proctor, had Chosen, they decided not to tell anyone at first. We acted like he’d said he wanted to join Mobb Deep and play QB in his spare time. (Cam denies this part of the conversation between him and Richardson ever took place—“He never said that,” Cam says. Mopeyhead.” A legit charge, maybe: The Panthers were losing constantly then. But that wasn’t the reason they were losing, Cam says now. “You had certain guys that didn’t know how to win that would make bonehead mistakes.” But people wanted to blame the towel, or whatever Cam had on that day.

With a person whose motivations you couldn’t be sure of. Just compelling to just see a person of his magnitude.

Maybe today he woke up and felt like being just a quarterback, not a black quarterback. And not just because the show doesn’t just talk about him.

Maybe he just didn’t feel like participating in the whole economy of outrage that surrounds him today.“I’ll let you be the judge. I look at it like some people have certain beliefs, and I have my own belief, and we can agree to disagree on certain things. I just feel like my impact and my heart tends to, you know, go the younger route.” Every episode, Cam helping some young boy or girl realize some weird ambition, like making a You Tube show about snake handling. They all brought something different.” Don’t be like Cam, was the idea. Before, the goal “was always to live comfortably and do the things that you want to do with whoever you want to do it with.

But this is what makes sports so amazing, that we can start a discussion around a table, in the newspaper, in the magazines, that will get people’s attention. Cam out in the desert with this kid, in a full rubber bodysuit so he doesn’t get bitten. Now it’s like, you have a seed on this earth that you see all your similarities in, from the nose, the ears, the face, the smile.

He isn’t going to stop celebrating after touchdowns and wins, or walking off podiums in angry silence after his team loses. A white piece of paper covered in neat, tiny handwriting, Cam reading aloud from it. Otherwise he’s so perfectly proportional you wouldn’t notice the way he’s built, which is: densely. If someone stumbled out of the Alaskan wilderness tomorrow, wondering why we’re all so obsessed with this dumb, complicated game, you’d show them tape of Cam—against the Giants last year, maybe, the game where the Panthers led 35–7 in the third quarter, gave up the entire lead by the end of the fourth, only for Cam to rise up from the turf, unkillable like Michael Myers, and calmly drive his team to victory. Because it’s true, he looks fucking invincible out there. He started smoking cigars two years ago, he says; after the Super Bowl loss he started drinking white wine, too, mostly Chardonnays. “We all have life lessons that we most dearly learn from. All these so-called experts calling him, in effect, lazy.

They’re like weird stone formations you might encounter out in a desert. Seventeen wins in 19 games last season and he could care less. He orders a green tea and a Shirley Temple, extra syrup. If you control your choice of words, you can, you know, kind of go down from there.” He’s obsessed with testing himself. Dear my Father Lord, I thank you for waking us up this morning, starting us on our way, putting food on our table, clothes on our body, shoes on our feet. Let it be the nourishment of our body in Christ’s name. The waiters can’t get enough of him; they explain the menu so many times I think I might dream about it.

And that’s what sports does.”Not saying Cam doesn’t mean what he says here. But I do know that he and his father, Cecil, have said and indicated otherwise as recently as four months ago. Cam looking at the camera in terror: “You never know when a snake is just gonna What an opportunity, for him and for the children.