Let’s have a moment of silence for the end of the 2014-15 football season. (Thank you.) Before we let it go completely, however, I need to raise the point of something we witnessed at its very end: Cam Newton’s display at his post-game press conference.
Now I’m not picking on Cam because I like him, although I cheered for the Broncos. I love his talent and style; I appreciate his attitude and goodwill. I think he rightly deserves to be MVP. But what we saw of him during that press conference was beneath him and opposite the persona he’s created for himself–the one being an awesome role model to kids, hurling the biggest smiles in football, and dabbing all over the place.
I know it can’t be easy losing the Super Bowl. Losing is just an all-around sucky thing; and when you’re a true competitor, you have to eat, sleep, and breathe it, just like when winning. Yet Newton knew he had to face reporters; it’s part of the package. And already having detractors, it would’ve been better to have seen him come out with at least a half-smile and explain how proud he was of his team, congratulate the Broncos, and stoke the Panther Nation about next year.
Instead, he let his emotions get the best of him, displayed an awful attitude, and walked out. What’s more, he offered a poor excuse explaining his behavior.
I drew a lesson from this. In 2 Peter 1:3-11, the apostle explains how God has granted us the privilege of being partakers of his divine nature–and the corollary of seizing on that by perfecting ourselves through spiritual discipline.
Partly a lesson on assurance and the Spirit’s work of bringing us to lasting godliness, Peter also implies that such regimen guarantees that we’ll meet God’s expectations of us when hardship comes (Ch. 2). It’s easy for a parent to know how their child will act under pressure when over the years they watch them perfect their character. Ask any previous coach of Cam’s–or Newton himself–and they’ll tell you that his prowess and success now are no surprise. He did the tough work until it became easy all along the way and never betrayed those lessons.
It’s no different spiritually. I don’t need to wonder how I might respond if I’m told to recant Jesus or repudiate truth if I’ve consistently trained myself in godliness. It’s like strengthening a muscle until it’s rock-hard and reliable. But a weak faith cannot expect to be strong in the day of trouble.
Closing the Gaps
There’s no doubt that Cam Newton is a remarkable athlete and has the future by the neck. He’s where he is today because he’s rigorously prepared himself for football greatness.
But his press conference partly showed us an integrity not as proven under pressure as his physical ability. Many of Newton’s peers stated at the time that there’s more growth for him, mainly in learning how to be a complete success, which includes losing.
Losing can be winning. But letting competition get the best of us and make us shortsighted can cause us to miss valuable lessons. Always abounding in life doesn’t mean always winning; it just might mean losing gracefully when the stakes are high.