Someone once said losing doesn’t build character; it reveals it.
If so, the Carolina Panthers didn’t flash much yesterday, after losing for the first time this season, to the Atlanta Falcons, 20-13. The Falcons, who were vanquished, vaporized and embarrassed by the Panthers just a few weeks ago, came to play this time, and exacted some serious revenge, upsetting the formerly 14-0 Panthers, in Atlanta.
And if you hadn’t heard of O’Brien Schofield 24 hours ago, you have now.
The former Seattle Seahawks linebacker was chafed by the embellished selfie that the Panthers took with two minutes left in their 38-0 rout of the Falcons a few weeks ago — led by their loquacious leader and MVP favorite, Cam Newton.
“If you handle yourself with class, you don’t have to worry about that,” Schofield said, in an article on ESPN.com. “But you see, they didn’t handle themselves with class the first time we played [when Carolina won 38-0]. So I didn’t care about how they were feeling after this game. I was ‘dabbing’ all in their faces.”
Dabbing is a dance perpetuated, if not perfected, by Newton over this historic run that had the Panthers winning 18 straight games dating back to last year, which is an NFC record.
It’s one of many spastic dance moves that has mesmerized the NFL, one where a player bounces his head into his bent elbow. So Schofield returned the favor in front of the Panthers, a clip that has mushroomed all over the Internet.
“They took a picture during the game and posted it on social media the first time we played. It was a whole team picture. And Cam was running up and down the sidelines. There wasn’t none of that today. We played a football game today. I’m not even a trash-talker, but when someone disrespects you and you get payback and then they can’t handle it, that’s glorious,” Schofield said. “If they could handle it, it would be cool. I probably wouldn’t have even ‘dabbed.’ But I was ‘dabbing’ in front of everybody.”
Some smack talk between rivals is hardly newsworthy. But what bogarts the bold ink is the fact that Carolina, on the heels of a riveting, 38-35 win over the Giants, a game amplified by the histrionics of Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr — who was suspended one game for his wretched conduct on national TV — failed to respond with the fortitude of a franchise many think will win the Super Bowl this year.
It also advances the argument that Newton isn’t mature enough to lead a team to a title. Seeing him sprint off the field yesterday, speaking to nary a soul besides Matt Ryan, fueled the sense that he’s a front-runner, someone who is great when he’s great, but retreats into the shadow of defeat.
For his part, Newton took ample blame for the loss, asserting he and his club got their “a** kicked” by the Falcons, and was sure to avoid hurling his teammates under the team bus.
And, of course, it’s just one game out of 16 this season. And every NFL team, sans the 1972 Miami Dolphins, loses at least one game. In fact, most argue that losing a game before the playoffs has a cathartic effect on a club.
It erases the titanic pressure of perfection. Indeed, many players from the 2007 Patriots have since conceded that entering the Super Bowl at 18-0 was more burden than they could bear, and it clearly impacted their play against the Giants, who pulled off the biblical upset to ruin what would have been the best season in NFL history. But instead, the Pats went from greatest ever to greatest Super Bowl losers ever — a dubious distinction, at best.
So perhaps the Falcons did the Panthers a solid. No one remembers the regular-season record of a Super Bowl champion, unless you’re the ’72 Dolphins. And as the 42 teams since then have proved, there’s no such thing as a perfect team. Now the Panthers just have to prove they’re champions, which is more than hard enough.
No dab can detract from the Panthers’ and Cam Newton’s fabulous season. Nor can it shield them from the epic expectations that accompany being undefeated, or the possible dances on Cam’s gridiron grave if they don’t go 2-0 in January.
And 1-0 in February.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.