Crossing The Line From Brash To Brat
Ever since Sunday’s Super Bowl, there has been a great debate brewing about what is expected of athletes in a press-conference immediately following a big event that did not go their way. In case you missed it, quarterback Cam Newton of the losing Carolina Panthers held a brooding and sulking two-minute press-conference following Sunday night’s game.
After a week of loud, boisterous and self-promoting press-conferences during the week, where Newtonchose to wear outrageous outfits that might even embarrass a clown; Newton wore a simple dark hoodie pulled over his head as he stared down most of the time. He answered one question acknowledging that they were outplayed and out-executed. But the rest of his answers consisted of mostly one-word answers amidst a great deal of mumbling, before he abruptly got up and walked off in the middle of taking questions.
Newton was immediately crushed in the media for his behavior and demeanor. I joined the fray on social media. I felt like if he’s going to make statements in the week leading up to the game like “The NFL has never seen anything like me before”; then he needs to step up and take ownership when things didn’t go his way. Some said he crossed the line from brash to brat.
Since then, the Newton apologists have come forward defending him. They bring up his age (26) and the circumstances of the day as why he should be given a pass and everyone should “walk a mile in his shoes” (a phrase I detest) before condemning him. I don’t buy into the age thing, but losing a Super Bowl that one is supposed to win may be enough of a blow to possibly give someone the benefit of the doubt…at least once.
It was then that I thought back to some of the post-race interviews, press-conferences and antics that I’ve seen over the years. I’ve seen drivers very gracious in defeat, while the words and behaviors of others have left me embarrassed for them. And sometimes it’s even the same driver.
That’s not taking into account the ones that have provided comic relief; like Helio Castroneves choking Charles Burns at Edmonton or Will Power’s double-bird at New Hampshire. Both of those incidents were bad on the surface, but they sure were funny. There were other post-race episodes that were less enjoyable and that I would prefer to forget.
You don’t have to go back very far for one of them. Juan Montoya had led the 2015 championship for the first fifteen races in a sixteen-race season. After a blistering start, he managed only one podium after winning the Indianapolis 500 in May. His sizeable lead continued to shrink throughout the latter stages of the season, until he lost the championship to Scott Dixon in a tie-breaker. Dixon won the season-finale at Sonoma, while Montoya finished sixth.
In the post-race interview, Montoya was less than classy. He complained about Dixon winning the championship by benefiting from winning a double-points race. Pay no attention to the fact that Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 – the only other double-points race on the schedule. He finished off his rant for the television audience by saying that “Dixon had a s**t season and had only one good race”, even though Dixon won four races last year compared to Montoya’s three.
Montoya is not the only one that can be less than pleasant after a race. Like Cam Newton, Ryan Hunter-Reay is affable and fun-loving when things are going well. When they’re not, well…look out. When Hunter-Reay won the 2012 championship, he was all smiles and giggles. But most of last year, he constantly had the look and demeanor of a man on his way to the proctologist.
Earlier in his career, Graham Rahal was surly when things weren’t going well – which was quite often. This past season, we saw the happy side of Rahal that we hadn’t seen in a while. Even when things didn’t go well, he was at least funny when describing someone pulling a boneheaded move. I’m hoping that marriage will finally do away with the surly and pouting Graham Rahal.
Even Scott Dixon, the Ice Man, has been known to lose his cool when a microphone is stuck in his face immediately after stepping out of the cockpit. It was only a couple of years ago that he referred to Will Power pulling “sort of a d**k move”. Not only did Will Power give us the double-birds at New Hampshire, but he also reminded us of the word wanker.
Of course, you can go further back in time and pull out countless times that AJ Foyt let his temper get the best of him. Kevin Cogan will forever be known as Coogin and Arie Luyendyk may be known for getting backhanded into some shrubbery at Texas almost as much as he is for winning the Indianapolis 500 twice. Jeff Andretti was the target of a profanity-laced Foyt rant at Nazareth in 1991, but then drove for the fiery Texan at Indianapolis the following May.
On one hand, we say we want athletes to be human and be themselves. Then when they say or do something we don’t like, we chastise them. It’s a very fine line. We say we want to see sportsmanship on display at all times, but there is also an old saying that says “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser”. We fans can’t have it both ways.
Personally, I didn’t care for Cam Newton’s post-game antics. But then again, I wasn’t crazy about the things he said about himself leading up to the game. His fans say that he was just being the real Cam Newton. Curiously enough, that’s what his detractors say also. I suppose if I started out as a Cam Newton fan, I would defend his actions and just write it off as him wearing his emotions on his sleeves. But I’m more old-school. I prefer the actions of a Tom Landry, a Joe Montana or yes, a Peyton Manning.
Normally, I don’t care for brash athletes who boast a lot. I tend to like those that let their performances do their talking. That’s why I’ve never been a huge fan of Montoya or Paul Tracy when he was a driver. Conversely, that’s why I always admired Mark Donohue, Al Unser and Rick Mears. But there is some inconsistency with my logic when I say I admired drivers like AJ Foyt and Bobby Unser, who were both about as brash as you could get. But I’m a fan, I don’t need to be logical.