By Rheta Grimsley Johnson
The sins of the father may be visited upon Cameron Newton and Auburn University in the by and by, but last Saturday afternoon was a great one, free of guilt or angst for fans like myself.
On the day Auburn played South Carolina for the SEC championship, I wore my No. 2 jersey, the first AU jersey I’ve owned since Sullivan passed to Beasley, and cheered myself hoarse as Cameron Newton exhausted every cliche the television announcers had in their arsenal.
Cam ran, pranced, wove, threw, plowed, connected and hailed Mary. He did it all so fluidly and effortlessly that it was like watching “Dancing With the Stars” instead of a football game.
I’ve wondered in this past season if my regular life has become so empty that I now live for football like so many people I’ve known and disdained. Or have I simply grown old? Or crazy? This game with the arcane rules that routinely baffle me has taken on significance beyond what’s seemly.
I think I know why. To watch Cam Newton play ball is to watch physical perfection. He is youth and health, determination and passion, grace and generosity rolled into one human. That is, if he’s human. He looks more like Pixar animation, a computer-generated superhero whose foes cannot find any kryptonite.
He is great at a job that he loves in a world that’s made in China and going to the dogs. If you think this is hyperbole, you haven’t seen him play. Or smile. Or rush to the student section of the stadium after the game, before the reporters find him.
I’ve been in the stands to watch Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson, and the aforementioned efficient team of Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley. I’ve seen Tim Tebow and O.J. Simpson, at least on TV. They all look like surreys with fringe on top next to Cam’s space shuttle. And none seems to have as much fun performing.
Maybe the best comparison isn’t from a football roster at all. Maybe Cameron Newton is football’s Tiger Woods, or Secretariat, or Pavarotti. Cam Newton is rare, from a broken mold.
I’ve heard all the theories, jokes and snide remarks about Cam and his dad. I think the timing of the revelations explains more about what’s going on than any of the news reports. I don’t know what Cecil Newton said or did or what Cameron did or did not know. I don’t know, and neither do you. Not yet. I know that college football is a boiling vat of boosters, money and hypocrisy. Those schools who can afford to be big-time are, the rest conveniently become scolds hiding in a library carrel and behind a petri dish. Alabama during the Bill Curry years.
The only way to remove corruption from all the programs is to pay the players and quit pretending that academics are the reason these young specimens choose to sign letters of intent with one school or another. Saint Joseph Paterno might not agree, but many coaches would.
Cam Newton is at Auburn to play ball. And, by God, he’s doing it.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.