What do MANNY “Pacman” PACQUIAO and TIMOTHY “Desert Storm” BRADLEY JR., have in common with Cam Newton?
Fortunately, for boxing, nothing.
We all saw Sunday’s Super Bowl. If we didn’t, we need to make sure next year to get the key to the cave in which we were locked.
The Super Bowl is a national holiday. It’s not designated as such. We just make it so, by our apparent burning need to see the final chapter in a season-long pursuit of the most super. Remember the line from the recent movie “Concussion,” where a doctor was attempting to challenge the NFL? He was told he was taking on an entity that “owns a day of the week.”
Chances are that even Pacquiao, in far-off General Santos City, Philippines, caught a bit of our Super Bowl, even though the NBA is more to his liking.
Bradley surely did.
But even if they didn’t see the game, they most likely have heard about its aftermath, about how the league’s MVP and quarterback of the losing Carolina Panthers, sulked his way through a postgame interview. Newton was sacked six times by the winning Broncos. Interestingly, he was much more elusive with reporters than he had been against Denver’s defensive line.
Here is just a sampling of his answers, in an interview that lasted less than three minutes and was conducted by Newton in a hooded sweatshirt:
“We’ll be back.”
“I’m done now.”
There are many possible reactions. We can theorize that Newton is just an entitled jerk and let it go at that. He would not be the first in pro sports, nor the last.
We can alibi for him and say that he had just lost the biggest game of his life, that he was obviously distraught and these media types should just leave him alone.
Or we can learn from him.
Better yet, Pacquiao and Bradley can learn from him, even though, in everything they have done in the past, we likely have nothing to fear.
They will fight in Las Vegas April 9, in what will certainly be one of the year’s biggest boxing matches. Much will be at stake. They will be surrounded by noise, distractions and dozens of people pulling them in all directions. In many ways, it will be a Super Bowl for them, the third match between the two, with a sold-out house at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and millions more watching around the world on HBO Pay Per View. No, it’s not the NFL. But it is big.
They know, and must feel, that there is a higher responsibility to themselves and their sport. It may be one of the toughest things in the world to face the public, via the media, in the depths of one’s frustrations, or even in the midst of celebration. Depending on the outcome of the event, you either want to find a hole and crawl in, or gather your family and friends around. People with laptops and microphones are not a high priority in these moments. But they are the conduit to the public, and the public pays the bills, including the out-of-sight salaries of players such as Newton.
With his behavior, Newton not only lost a game, he lost an opportunity.
The public loves a winner. Even more, it might love a poised, articulate loser.
What will stick in the minds of many who saw Sunday’s Super Bowl — how badly Newton played or how badly he behaved afterward? It could very well be the latter.
There were so many things Newton could have said, so many ways he could have demonstrated that, while this was important, it was a football game, not a battlefield or a plane crash. Tennis star Boris Becker used to handle that nicely after major losses when he faced the press. He would say, “Hey, nobody died.”
Newton is a great player. His team was a great team. They went 17-1. They will be back. That’s all he needed to say, while giving credit to the incredible effort of the Broncos. He had a chance to say how nice it was for Peyton Manning to go out on top, how sorry he was that the Carolina fans didn’t get the show and result they deserved, or even how he had learned from this and been humbled by it. NFL fans would have lit candles of adoration.
Harken back to the first Pacquiao-Bradley fight. Nobody questions that the decision was controversial. But remember Pacquiao’s post-fight reaction? He said he was surprised, but that decisions like that are part of the sport and the judges have to be respected.
And remember Bradley’s response?
“It was a good fight,” he said. “Every round was pretty close.”
And what has he said since then, while never ducking questions about how difficult it has been to have your biggest victory become a black mark of perception in the public against you?
“Manny Pacquiao has done a lot for sports,” Bradley has said. “He’s done a lot for boxing. To share the ring with him again is a privilege.”
Every once in a while in sports, we get the baby-with-the-pacifier-in-his-mouth scene in public. Newton gave us one Sunday.
Expect none of that April 9.