So I'm just getting back home from a little R&R this weekend. We took a little vacation and got to watch a little football, just as a big percentage of the American population did. We were supporting our Carolina Panthers and were a bit disappointed to see them lose. To make matters worse, Cam Newton had a pretty bad press conference and everyone lit into him for walking out on reporters after sulking his way through the post-game interview.
He has since explained that he doesn't like to lose, that he wasn't ready to talk to the media at the time, and that he's got emotions like the rest of us. You can also hear very clearly in the video that a jubilant member of the Denver Broncos is being interviewed within earshot.
That doesn't necessarily make it ok for him to react the way he did and I'm not writing to defend him...
Rather, I'm calling attention to the fact that we have only ourselves to blame. Yes, while he's responsible for his actions, I think we, as a society, need to take a good, long look in the mirror and shoulder part of the responsibility.
Why? Because our society is creating an environment where our young people don't know how to respond to adversity. Because in this world of "participation trophies" for everyone, people don't really know what it means to lose. Because kids are coddled and have no idea how to respond when things don't work out the way they expect.
Don't believe me?
- CNN reported on a study that showed kids who are overvalued by their parents have a tendency towards narcissism later in life.
- HBO Real Sports recently did a piece entitled Trophy Nation in which they talk about the ramifications of handing everyone a trophy for just showing up. In it, Dr. C. Robert Cloninger says, "The technical term is 'partial-reinforcement extinction effect.' If you constantly reward a kid, you spoil them and don’t build a capacity for them to be resilient to frustration."
- There is anecdotal evidence that students who grew up without adversity lack the fortitude to get through technical and engineering programs because they're too difficult and here in the U.S., we're left with fewer technical adults who can troubleshoot or diagnose problems. Heck, most people can't even tinker anymore.
This very topic even reached the NFL last year. James Harrison, an Outside Linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, took to Instagram last year when his sons received participation trophies:
I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best...cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better...not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues
A photo posted by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on Aug 15, 2015 at 10:09am PDT
It's in this environment that a star athlete like Cam Newton has grown up. It's in this culture that he thrived and made a name for himself by succeeding at every level. And it's quite possible that he has never experienced a failure equivalent to the one he felt this past Sunday.
I don't condone his behavior, but I certainly understand that unless we do something to change the culture, we're only going to see more people act the same way. It's time we start to teach our kids that it's ok to fail. Criticize him all you want, but we need to start looking at the part we, as a society, play.
Agree? Disagree? Change doesn't happen until we start to talk. Reach out to me, @ultrasmoov on Twitter, and use #unsteadystate. Join the conversation!