Well, you must tell me, baby
How your head feels under somethin’ like that
Under your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat–Bob Dylan

The Wednesday Pop Culture Rant would like to commend Cam Newton on the zebra-print Versace pants he sported on his way to the Super Bowl. The Carolina Panthers quarterback does Joe Namath proud. Naturally, the yakking sports heads have nearly lost their minds. The chief preoccupation of the hype this week has been: What does Cam Newton mean? Yes, sports are supposed to be fun but is Cam having too much of it? What about the children1 and the holy Respect that must be shown towards the game? All of these comments are generally code for, “There’s a large, black man enjoying himself more than I’m comfortable with here in the skybox.”

The debates grows even more interesting when looking at the stark contrast across the field from Newton; Peyton Manning has literally spent his entire life trying to exist as the Ur Quarterback. He does nothing but think football and make commercials with aw shucks humility. Manning has managed to perform as a genius at his position while remaining a conformist to the manners of the game.

The Rant remembers when Newton broke into the league and people expressed concern that the rookie pouted and blamed teammates after a loss, which is generally code for, “There’s a large, black man angrier than I’m comfortable with here in the skybox.” We are reminded that Panthers fan Albert Camus once said, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” The Rant suspects Newton expresses a little too much freedom, and therefore rebellion, for the hoary Protectors of the Sport.2

Speaking of studies in contrast, The Rant noticed in the NYT this Sunday that cultural critic A.O. Scott was droning on and on about the value of criticism and the necessity of his existence.  Scott has always been a scold when it comes to popular culture, but of late he has become absolutely school marmy, lecturing readers about What Matters and his importance in doing so.

Meanwhile over in another section of the paper, Wesley Morris had a fantastic essay in which he asserts, “Presently, the beautiful mess of what it means to be alive, what it means to be human, is being staged almost entirely within the realm of women’s sexuality.” He mentions Carol and Transparent and Broad City and even PBS NewsHour. Once he connected the dots, we couldn’t have agreed more. The piece was the type of criticism that makes you respond, “Of course that’s what is happening” and makes you happy in the realization. We get to enjoy the discovery Morris reaches, right beside him, rather than being presented The Point like a nasty spoonful of medicine we should be grateful to receive.

The Rant has long been a fan of Morris, especially during his time at Grantland, the defunct website that was a casualty of the Bill Simmons and ESPN feud. Morris doesn’t have as much free reign at the Times, but he’s still one of the best voices in pop culture. Criticism we want to read, not that we feel like we should read.

The Rant could waste time gazing at our navel, wondering what our place in the world might be, but we would rather just Rant away and invite you along for the ride. Maybe some freedom and rebellion will break out during the journey.

  1. The kids love Cam because he’s Superman and dabs and presents footballs to tykes in the stands after a touchdown. So we think the kids are alright.
  2. These are the same Protectors that have no problem dragging their feet on the concussion issue, or allowing the Defense Department to pay them to “honor” veterans and military personnel, or dropping the hammer on any entity using the term Super Bowl without forking over dump trucks of cash, which is why your local car dealer refers to “the big game” in its commercials. But heaven forbid Cam Nae Nae in the endzone.

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