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A Bad Situation Is Often The Best Time to Make a Great Impression

A day after the Super Bowl, the world is abuzz with critics of the halftime show, player performances and most notably, Cam Newton's handling of the post-game interview.
First and foremost I should express my disdain for critics in general.  It is easy to be a critic; but it is hard to do something worthy of criticism.  Both Cam Newton and Peyton Manning have taken one of the many great stages in sport and put themselves at the forefront of the public forum for either adulation or scorn.  
And to earn the right to be put under the microscope, both men and their teammates, performed at a level that leaves us all in awe of their great talents.  All the players and coaches are to be respected and commended.
Peyton Manning achieved the fairytale ending to a storied career - with records established, affection from teammates, respect from competitors and the grace of a champion.
In contrast, Cam Newton was playing out the script straight from a Greek tragedy.  With tremendous hubris in tow, he struggled to overcome his opponent and fell from a high pedestal he rightfully built on the merits of his play and his team's performance.
As you weigh Peyton's fairytale with Cam's Greek tragedy it seems as though there is a fitting balance to the outcome.  Even so... it was unsatisfying and unsettling.   We don't want balance, we want hope.  
As with any Greek tragedy, we want the hero who succumbs to his hubris to be redeemed and to be renewed.  Cam Newton will likely get there.  I'm willing to follow Dale Carnegie's guidance when he said...
“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”  -- Dale Carnegie
Even though I was rooting for the Broncos last night, I was sad to see Cam handle the loss in the way he did.  My disappointment is not a judgment of him as much as it is the sadness associated with missing a golden opportunity to be great.  He had an opportunity to be a class act and he fumbled.  It was the biggest fumble of the evening.
Had Cam Newton handled the loss well - he would have cemented himself as a unique leader in a new class of NFL quarterbacks.  It's one thing to exalt great performances, it is entirely different to distinguish yourself as a leader.  This is what we expect from an MVP.  
Cam Newton is not the first quarterback to find himself in this position.  Just two years ago Peyton Manning was in the same spot.  Here is how he handled the situation.
How Peyton handled his SuperBowl loss is a master class in grace.  He is truly a class act.
Observe how he does this:
  1. He acknowledges his failures and disappointment
  2. He connects his disappointment to inspiration for the future
  3. He acknowledges his teammates
  4. He credits his opponents
  5. He admits it will take time to heal the disappointment
  6. He seeks the positive that he can take away from this loss
Leadership is easy when the everything is going your way.  Leadership is most critical when things are going poorly.  Leadership is most challenging when you have to stomach setbacks and defeat.
Cam is great quarterback with phenomenal skills.  He can be a great leader.  He has been a great leader.  On this night, however, it wasn't his physical gifts that were being tested, it was his leadership.
On this night, however, it wasn't his physical gifts that were being tested, it was his leadership.
Cam Newton will learn from this.  It is my hope that he comes back better, stronger and with a greater sense of obligation to his responsibility as a leader.  
And for all the fans, opponents and haters that wish to tear him down, I suggest calm reflection of your own failures.  There is no honor reveling in Cam Newton's disappointment.
I am sad for Cam.  Not because of the bitter disappointment he must be feeling, but because it seems obvious that nobody prepared him for the eventuality of a loss.  For the past two weeks he seemed as certain of victory as Hillary Clinton was in 2008.  Where was the mentor (or agent?) grabbing him by the shoulders right before he went to greet the press helping him gather this thoughts?
It is possible that his incredible hubris kept him from accepting counsel on how to handle a post-game presser after a SuperBowl loss.   While it is possible, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.   I believe it is more likely that his handlers did not prepare him for this inevitable consequence of competition at his sport's highest level.  That is a shame.
Cam doesn't need handlers.  He needs a mentor.  Which NFL star from the past will step up and play that role for him?   
If I am wrong about Cam, time will tell.  If Cam is unable to be coached on the finer points of leadership, it will all come out in the wash.  However, like so many other young men (and he is a young man), he is not yet the man he can be.
Regardless of motivation, depth of disappointment or lack of preparation for the possibility of a loss, Cam Newton missed a great opportunity to shine in a dark moment.  He had the opportunity to congratulate his opponents, thank his fans, inspire his teammates, and show the world that he is not just a tremendous quarterback... but a leader.
Regardless of motivation, depth of disappointment or lack of preparation for the possibility of a loss, Cam Newton missed a great opportunity to shine in a dark moment.
This post is not intended to be a criticism of Cam Newton, but rather, an open discussion of the missed opportunity that many of us ignore in times of failure.  It is in times of great despair that leadership truly shines brightest.
This article is also an important reminder that we all need mentors at different times in our lives.  And if you have tasted success, why aren't you a mentor to someone else?
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