Super Bowl #50 features up-and-comer Cam Newton, the playful and sly quarterback who is about as controversial as it gets in our constantly-offended society.
More importantly, Newton is marketable—in terms of selling yogurt and giving the world something to talk about. “He’s the new face of the NFL,” said more than one sports talking head, “get used to it.” Even Peyton Manning echoed this endorsement.
When you take a few statistics, Cam Newton’s fantastic season looks kind of average. Of course we know it’s not all about figures. Numbers do, too, lie—a person with an agenda can make them say anything. Newton did what he needed to do, with the team he has, and deserved the season MVP.
However. Let’s not forget that 49er starter Colin Kaepernick fell off the map soon after going to the title game, and looking like the next face of things.
Another QB, Andrew Luck, got a similar coronation before he took a professional snap. Luck was being compared to John Elway as a college junior, and not only because they played at the same school. Legend before the fact?
Luck has feasted on a bottom-feeding division. Can’t blame that on him, because you play whoever’s before you. But he’s a career .500 quarterback outside of the AFC South, who throws a load of picks (because he “has to”). He’s still an all-time talent. People simply were patting his back before he broke a sweat.
Placing Steph Curry on this page might be blasphemous for some NBA fans. The time has come to knock your golden calf a bit.
Curry would be a star in any era. But it’s hard to imagine him and his sharpshooting partner Klay Thompson running so free in the 1980s and 90s. Removing the hand check to free up offenses, among a few other things, had a ripple effect. It means gunners like James Harden are free to toss up from the parking lot. And that Golden State Warrior coach Steve Kerr is already being considered a historical giant by some, when his play calling career is still on Similac.
“Curry is unstoppable,” I heard one fanatic said. It is true that the game is set perfectly for someone with his skill set. And that’s why he’s unstoppable—you can’t touch anyone in the NBA, anymore.
Across all major sports, observers notice that concern for player safety has reached insufferable levels. We watch men throw speeding baseballs within inches of each other, catapult their bodies across the gridiron, and so on, yet everybody must be “safe.” That, plus a gradual lean toward more offense by the NBA, eventually leads to Curry skittering around like a waterbug without so much as a hip check. And this goes over with the casual fan that advertisers covet, because it is pretty basketball… but it is not true to life. Like mistakenly biting into a wax apple.
All of this is as much about searching for stories as the actual stories. Things uttered offhand are repeated and picked apart, until they trend and become sports gospel. We want to predict the next all-time great ahead of time. We want to appear wise.
The crystal ball prognosticators are rarely held to task for being wrong, because there’s always another game, another player to dissect, and Americans will forget what they heard in fifteen minutes. Bottom line: These guys aren’t overrated. We are merely ahead of their time.