I think I watched Cousins’s remarks online later that night, but I still couldn’t remember anything he said. So I just went back and reviewed the transcript. Here was his first response:
“I think my thoughts right now in the moment are I’m disappointed in some missed opportunities here today,” Cousins said. “I think Green Bay played well and they are a playoff-caliber team — they showed that tonight. I walked away feeling like this loss catapults our offseason to enable us to have a little bit of an edge, and say, ‘Where did we fall short? We made the playoffs, but we want to advance in the playoffs and we weren’t good enough to do that, so what do we have to change and what do we have to grow in, in the next several months to be able to get back here and win?’ Hopefully it will challenge us as a young team to grow in that area. I feel good about where this organization is headed and the nucleus of guys that we have. It’s year-to-year, so we will see where we are at going into next year.”
Cousins conformed to the standard postgame NFL rituals, and no one particularly cared. Cam Newton this week — in a moment of honest rebellion — did not, and the internet’s belly rumbled and then erupted at this violation of postgame protocol.
Why did so many people care? This can’t be about showing class; the victorious Broncos tweeted about dabbing, said the Panthers wanted to be rappers and backup dancers, and generally mocked the losing team in a display at least as tacky as anything Newton did. Some analysts claimed it’s about showing leadership, and maybe there’s something to that, although it’s hard to imagine five minutes on a podium counting for more than what happens in private. And this can’t be about showing respect to the hardworking scribes, because when has anyone cared about the hardworking scribes?
(If that’s changed, before enforcing postgame news-conference rules, let’s make sure all injuries are promptly reported, the wireless always works perfectly and there are sufficient vegetarian dining options.)
Some have suggested that we like to see previously confident athletes humbled, and to revel in their fall. This is a tempting possibility, but also less-than-convincing. If you disagree, please tell me what any other Panthers player other than Cam Newton said late Sunday night.
(I’ll help: “Regardless of the score, our mentality the whole season is, ‘Keep Pounding,’ ” Luke Kuechly said. “Whether you’re up, whether you’re down, you have to keep playing.” Do you feel better now?)
Most importantly, this can’t be about providing enough content-infused Pez for the media dispensers. Newton generated far more pixels and conversations by leaving than he could have by staying, and his sulking non-answers were at least as honest as the typical post-game pap. The way he walked away provided a better window into his feelings than would insipid congratulations to Denver. Consider Newton’s Tuesday explanation.
“I’ve been on the record saying that I’m a sore loser,” Newton told reporters. “Who likes to lose? You show me a good loser and I’m going to show you a loser.”
Newton delivered that message every bit as clearly after the game, even if it took fewer words.
So, do you now remember what Cousins said after the Green Bay loss? I literally just read it — it’s sitting there, only a few paragraphs above us! — and I’ve already forgotten everything he said. Something about the offseason, and maybe corned-beef?
What do you remember about Russell Wilson’s news conference after the Seahawks lost the 2015 Super Bowl. My memory is blank. You could offer me a year of complimentary Old Bay-scented blog items, and I would never be able to tell you anything he said.
“‘It definitely hurts,” Wilson said, as I just discovered. ”I hate the feeling that I’m the one who lost it. I keep my head up, though. I know that I prepare and I get ready. I know I play my heart out.”
How about Len Dawson, the losing quarterback of Super Bowl I? The Post’s game story contained exactly zero quotes, from either team. But our paper also ran an inside wire story with some thoughts from the losing quarterback.
“We moved the ball real well, especially on our play-action passes, but I made a couple of mistakes,” Dawson admitted. “Let’s face it, their offense then took the ball and drove it down our throats,” he added.
Is it okay for a losing athlete to say nothing, substantively? Why, that’s almost expected. Is it okay for a losing athlete to say nothing, literally? Heavens no; that’s disrespecting the game. Cliches are seen as honest efforts at answering questions. A more raw response — such as leaving — is seen as betrayal to the lanyard-and-microphone traditions.
So what do you remember about the Washington Nationals’ postgame comments after losing to the Giants in the 2014 playoffs? I remember two things: Matt Williams offering a thoroughly non-convincing defense of his bullpen strategy (“those are our seventh-inning guys,” he said), and Jayson Werth not talking to the media. And the reason I remember Werth not talking to the media is because a colleague of mine repeatedly has dinged Werth for that offense during radio interviews, suggesting it is a measure of the outfielder’s character.
But does anyone remember, or care, what Werth’s fellow slumping hitter, Adam LaRoche, said that night? I just checked.
“They’ve got pitchers,” LaRoche said of the Giants. “They didn’t get here by not pitching either. But it’s guys that we can get to and we didn’t. Timing was off. A couple bad breaks. I feel like we hit some balls hard and didn’t get a lot out of them. Didn’t get anything out of them.”
I don’t think it’s a slight on my line of work to say these prized post-loss answers are often nearly useless except to fill space, especially in the chaotic moments right after a game. The only way Newton could make people care about his news conference — short of reciting the completed works of Pushkin in Russian on stage — was by leaving early.
That likely wasn’t his goal, but he at least prompted me to consider what I might have wanted to hear the Super Bowl’s losing quarterback say after a disappointing result. The answer? Not much, really. I’d rather know how they actually feel. And that’s what Newton gave me.
(Note: As a practicing media member at the game with deadline inches to fill, I’d likely have felt differently. But you don’t care about the complaints of practicing media members. I’m writing this as a sports television consumer.)