A Truth: Cam Newton is the biggest superstar that Charlotte has ever had.
An Additional Truth: Cam Newton handles that stardom as well as anyone on earth possibly could.
There was much to see at Cam Newton’s “Kick it with Cam” charity event held at American Legion Memorial Stadium. Celebrities and athletes came together for a good cause through the Cam Newton Foundation. There will no doubt be many stories written about the event, and rightfully so.
But one thing that struck me during the event was Cam’s interactions with his fans. There was subtext within the main story.
For the first time I got to witness Cam in public, without the Carolina Panthers security staff and without the protective walls of Bank of America Stadium. Cam was mixing it up with the people in close proximity. At first behind a typical chain link fence, and later without any barrier at all.
He would sign autographs and even a ball, a scene I am very accustomed to seeing every year at Carolina Panthers training camp in Spartanburg, SC.
Then came a moment where Cam had no barrier between him and the crowd. This was new. In order to walk to his next game, he needed to walk through a tunnel underneath Charlottetown Avenue, across Armory Drive, and up the stadium embankment. He was immediately swarmed by a crowd of people.
There is a part of Cam Newton that doesn’t want the attention. A part that realizes the positive fan attention can turn on him at any moment. Friday I heard mostly nice things yelled Cam’s way while he walked. But there was also plenty of negative things being shouted at him as well. They didn’t realize that if Cam stopped, he would have to spend at least 30 minutes signing autographs and in turn missing his next kickball game. Still, the rude comments came. “Are you too good to stop?” was one of the nicer insults, the others I won’t bother repeating. Cam’s expression didn’t change, he has learned to completely tune out when he needs to. And lets be honest, with some of the public he needs to frequently.
I imagine at times Cam Newton wished he could be invisible, because that is exactly how I would feel.
Some fans no longer simply and politely ask for an autograph. Not in this digital age of snapchat and instagram. An autograph or a hand shake is no longer good enough. Fans now need a digital memento that their friends can envy. It isn’t about their own personal experience with Cam tucked away in their memory. It is more about their friends being jealous of their experience through social media. Everyone is now starring in their own personal reality TV show with terrible ratings. This narcissism has crept into all facets of everyone’s daily lives, my own included I can shamefully admit.
These days some fans walk with celebrities, holding their phones and record every step with their idol. They don’t ask. They don’t consider it may not be proper. They jump right in and start recording just inches from their prized social media subject, TMZ style.
Cam did not complain. Cam did not ask anyone not to take pictures or videos. Cam did not ask security (what little there was of it) to intervene.
Cam simply walked and allowed everyone to walk with him. This was, by far, the best decision he could have made. One negative word from his mouth in response to what was happening around him would have immediately gone viral on social media. From there it would have been picked up by national websites, gleefully declaring Cam’s disdain for the public.
By the time Newton made it to the stadium steps, mostly children remained. They were the only ones determined enough to keep up with Newton’s brisk walk. The adults, interested only in what Cam could do for them, left behind.
Kids are great in that way. They didn’t want anything, they just wanted to walk with Cam Newton. I like that.
Am I making too much of this brief moment? Maybe. But I can’t help but think it was a small glimpse into something Cam must deal with every day. More so in a city that is not accustomed to having such a high level celebrity.
Cam Newton’s fame since being named MVP and playing in the Superbowl has skyrocketed. His manner of dealing with that fame directly could not have been better.
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