Manning vs. Newton: What About the Kids?


I watched Super Bowl 50 on Sunday night along with the other 111.9 million people who tuned in. I was cheering for my hometown Carolina Panthers. I am a Cam Newton fan -- let's just get that out of the way. I live in Charlotte and see how much he does for our community. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he is unapologetic for who he is and I respect that. I don't know much about Peyton Manning other than the world seems to love and respect him and that's good enough for me. He's a household name and seems like an All-American kind of guy -- wholesome family man who loves playing the game of football. I would argue the same about Cam Newton; he just has 13 less years of life experience. We can't judge him for that.

After the game I watched two quarterbacks answer questions from reporters.

"I got a couple of priorities," Manning told CBS News. "I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight."

Meanwhile, Newton, with what I would describe as humbled and defeated demeanor, answered questions in a postgame presser after losing the Super Bowl. He said, "I'm done man", and walked out after answering about a dozen questions from reporters.

Could he have handled himself in a manner that would have drawn less criticism? Absolutely. But why do we need or expect to immediately hear from a player who just lost the biggest game of his career to date? And why do we have any expectations on how he should act? He wasn't disrespectful. He didn't say anything rude. He didn't yell or use profanity. He was simply hurt. Why can't we extend him the same grace we extended to Manning in the 2010 Super Bowl when Manning walked off the field without shaking hands with Drew Brees? Why can't our need for answers be secondary to our respect for another human being?

But what about the kids?

Media, celebrities and all-around Cam Newton haters took to social media and news outlets about what a bad example Newton was setting to children by leaving the presser early.

But what about the message Manning is sending to kids? Here we have an All-American legend who says his priority is to drink a lot of beer in celebration of his Super Bowl win.

Yes, let's talk about the kids.

Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year.

People aged 12-20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States.

More than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.

In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.

I don't think Mr. Manning meant for his remarks to come off as endorsing binge drinking. I also don't think Mr. Newton meant for his remarks or actions to, in any way, be disrespectful or unsportsmanlike. What I am baffled at is the outraged created around Mr. Newton's actions and yet no one seems to be talking about what message Manning's comments actually does send to kids, intended or not.

I can't imagine the pressure that football players face with the standards we hold them to and expectations we put on them. This isn't about picking apart the players. They are human. They make mistakes. What I am concerned about is how backwards we have it as a society. No one sees it as a bad example that Peyton is sending a message to kids that binge drinking is okay. Meanwhile, the outrage over Newton's early departure from a postgame presser is all about being a bad example to kids. I mean, am I the only one who is confused here? If we are worried about the kids -- if we are legitimately worried about the messages that are being sent, I'd say we should be more concerned about a role model endorsing "drinking a lot of Budweiser" than a player being upset about a loss with little to say to the media.

Cam Newton, 26 years old, loses the Super Bowl and walks out of a presser wearing his heart on his sleeve. America reminds him he's a role model to kids and is setting a bad example. Peyton Manning, 39 years old, wins the Super Bowl and says one of his priorities is to "drink a lot of Budweiser." America applauds.

Come on, America. Help me out on this one. If this is about the kids, let's talk about the kids and how backwards this logic is here.