Fear of an Urban Planet
The sweltering and unrelenting heat of the beautiful twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago juxtaposed itself as the backdrop of my Super Bowl weekend. The soundtrack: hard-driving, fast-paced Afro-Indo influenced soca music – the driving force of carnival season. Unlike hip-hop, soca is one genre seemingly oblivious to one of the most important sports weekends in North America.
Hip-hop’s preeminence in sports has become more pronounced in the last few years as some of today’s best athletes are now encapsulating the very essence of showmanship that made the genre of music the most important addition to pop culture in the last 30 years. That being said, this influx of showmanship and bravado has not come to the forefront without varying degrees of controversy.
More specifically, the contention that athletes like Cam Newton are now facing is at an all-time high. Newton and the Carolina Panthers danced and dabbed their way to the most important game in the world of football – the Super Bowl.
Not since Deion “Prime Time” Sanders have we seen an athlete garner so much attention about the antics and dramatics surrounding their play, with little to no light shone on their actual play. For whatever it’s worth, Newton’s play on the field has been exceptional, and definitely worthy of Most Valuable Player (MVP) consideration.
Cam Newton also happens to be African-American, which in 2016 shouldn’t matter, however, for some reason it does.
Not only has he spearheaded a team with little to no stars to an almost perfect regular season record offensively, he effectively followed that up by earning a spot in the Super Bowl. All while laughing, grinning from ear to ear after every first down completed and delivering footballs to unsuspecting young fans after every touchdown.
For some reason, many have taken offence to this. It has caused quite the stir and certainly become somewhat of a distraction, resulting in the issue of race being catapulted to the forefront.
Newton is an extremely athletic quarterback, whose combination of speed, power and finesse has made him nearly an unstoppable force. He also happens to be African-American, which in 2016 shouldn’t matter, however, for some reason it does.
How else can you explain the fact that he has been so vilified for exuberant celebratory poses and post-scoring rituals? Clearly, Cam isn’t the only person in the NFL to celebrate first downs and touchdowns with such vigor; however, he is clearly the only one that has created such a buzz with his oft-hated antics.
America seems to be threatened by said swagger, which is often spun as overly confident cockiness.
The problem is, when his counterparts like Rob Gronkowski, whose dominance this year has been just as impactful, decide to violently spike a football into the ground, it is met with cheers and positive adulation. Moreover, when the league’s golden boy J.J. Watt does the ‘whip’ or ‘nae nae’ dance after his tackles or interceptions, his antics are ignored and he is viewed as a fun-loving, good-natured role model.
The same can’t be said for Newton, whose season has been mired controversy surrounding his celebrations, and just his overall swagger. America seems to be threatened by said swagger, which is often spun as overly confident cockiness.
Taking pictures pre-game with rap superstars like Jeezy and Future haven’t helped his cause either, as many view the distractions as ‘bad for the game’. Clearly, not bad for his game. The Carolina Panthers assaulted the NFL with more than 18 games of sheer dominance, with much credit going to their incredible defence, which has been nothing short of brilliant.
Much more of the credit also rests squarely on Newton’s broad shoulders. He may not have ungodly passing numbers through the air, like colleague Tom Brady and Super Bowl foe, Peyton Manning, but Newton’s effectiveness is measured by an innate ability to win – a characteristic he has shown since his collegiate days at Auburn University.
Over 25 years ago Public Enemy released A Fear of a Black Planet, and many shuddered to believe that this may soon happen.
When one’s successful prowess is diluted with hatred and disdain by some segments of the masses, it sheds light on the underlying tone of bigotry and racism that leads one to really start believing DJ Khaled when he says, “They don’t wanna see us win.”
In this case, that “they” is the lily-white mainstream sporting media that can’t bare the thought of someone being this dominant all while barely breaking a sweat, showing off their pearly-whites and laughing in amusement, pirouetting and somersaulting to yet another first down.
Cam Newton should be revered for his unrelenting will and unapologetic approach to the smash mouth world of football that he currently sits on top of. Unfortunately, some fear what he represents – the urban diaspora finding a seat at the proverbial table of success, the same way hip-hop pushed its way in, cocked its feet up on the table and continues to eat at it to this day.
Over 25 years ago Public Enemy released A Fear of a Black Planet, and many shuddered to believe that this may soon happen. Black has turned into ‘urban’, as every ethnic background has gravitated towards the culture of hip-hop, not just in music, but also in sport.
My aim was to complete this piece without breaking out into a sweat, potentially electrocuting myself on my MacBook, under the hot Trinidad sun. While I couldn’t accomplish that, I didn’t shock myself; however, I will be waiting to see if Newton will be able to shock the world with a future Super Bowl win and put one final dab into the hearts of all his haters and detractors.