BOSTON — Monday morning, Alex Sarkis entered the athletic attire retailer subsequent to Gillette Stadium, dwelling to the New England Patriots, and bypassed two racks of Tom Brady jerseys. Sarkis, 21, a lifelong Patriots fan, had pushed 90 minutes from his dwelling in western Massachusetts to Foxborough to purchase the hottest-selling sports activities merchandise in New England: the distinctive No. 1 jersey of the Patriots’ new quarterback, Cam Newton.
“It’s not a simple adjustment for sports activities followers round right here,” Sarkis stated of Newton changing Brady, whose standing within the area after six Tremendous Bowl titles might solely be surpassed by Paul Revere. “For lots of us, Brady is all we knew. However that’s clearly modified.”
The turnabout for Patriots followers has been jarring on a number of ranges. Brady, now playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was adopted by tradition-bound New England partly for his quiet and reserved deportment. Newton is outspoken and favors flamboyant fashions when not in uniform. Brady had attained a level of worldwide cultural movie star. Newton spent the final 12 months in relative obscurity, largely unable to play due to ill-defined accidents that cast doubt on his worth to an N.F.L. franchise. On the sphere, Brady is a traditional, old-style pocket passer, whereas Newton’s best asset is a versatility that features artistic, elusive dashes upfield.
Most unavoidably, Newton this month turned the primary Black quarterback to start a season as New England’s first-string starter.
“Personally, I believe it’s nice that he’s a Patriot, particularly with what’s happening within the nation proper now,” Sarkis stated. “New England has a status as not precisely being essentially the most numerous place.”
Due to his dynamic play within the Patriots’ first three games this season — two of them victories — Newton, by practically each measure, has been welcomed enthusiastically by New England followers. This week, for instance, a lot of the chatter on native sports activities speak radio was about whether or not Newton may win the N.F.L.’s Most Worthwhile Participant Award. His jersey is a high vendor within the six New England states since Sept. 1, in line with Fanatics, the biggest on-line vendor of licensed sports activities merchandise. (Though, curiously, Brady’s Buccaneers jersey ranks second in New England. Nationally, Brady merchandise ranks No. 1, however gross sales of Newton jerseys are nearly equal.)
Nonetheless, Newton’s presence in such a high-profile place in and round Boston, a metropolis with a complicated, checkered racial past, has others in the neighborhood warily watching and questioning if he might be handled in a different way than a white quarterback. What occurs if the Patriots’ first Black quarterback to be an everyday starter loses consecutive video games?
“The minute there are important sufficient missteps for Cam Newton, then that opens the floodgates for all the different criticisms of him, not simply as a participant, however of his character,” stated Rahsaan D. Corridor, a laywer and the director of the racial justice program for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.
“I’m nearly assured that the critique just isn’t going to be, ‘See, that’s the issue with Black quarterbacks.’ Or code phrases like, ‘That’s the issue with athletic quarterbacks.’”
Corridor, who was invited by New England Coach Invoice Belichick to handle the Patriots this summer time after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd in Could, added: “I believe it’s going to be critiques of, ‘If he wasn’t so busy shopping for these high-end fits or on the market commenting on different points then he’d be capable of deal with what’s happening on the sphere.’”
Newton’s acceptance by the Patriots neighborhood so far has been aided by a number of piecemeal, even symbolic, developments. One of many first was the early, keen endorsement he acquired from Belichick, who not often praises new Patriots earlier than they’ve proved themselves for the workforce.
“No person works tougher than Cam does — he’s right here early, he stays late and he works very arduous,” Belichick stated final month. “He’s received an excellent character. He will get together with everyone. He’s very social and has an excellent presence.”
Belichick’s ardent, and fast, assist of Newton was a shock to many since Newton’s flashy character appeared in battle with the strait-laced method of Belichick. However Jermaine Wiggins, a good finish on the Patriots’ first Tremendous Bowl championship workforce who’s now a bunch on the Boston sports activities speak radio station WEEI, by no means doubted that Belichick would discover widespread floor together with his new quarterback.
“In the event you have a look at Invoice Belichick’s observe file, he coached every kind of individuals from Lawrence Taylor to Randy Moss to Corey Dillon to Tom Brady,” Wiggins stated. “He’s been uncovered to quite a bit and wouldn’t have lasted this lengthy with out with the ability to regulate and get together with all varieties of gamers.”
One other early turning level for Newton might have come after New England’s solely loss so far, a sport at Seattle that ended when Newton was stopped a yard short of scoring a game-winning landing on the ultimate play. Though two botched blocks by Patriots gamers on the line of scrimmage had been the distinguished reason for the play’s failure, Newton took the blame afterward and stated he ought to have tried a special path to the top zone.
It might be one thing many quarterbacks would do, however teammates and followers nonetheless took discover.
“Cam will put the workforce first,” security Devin McCourty stated.
Mike Connolly, a Patriots fan from Foxborough, Mass., had one other perspective.
“It’s been clear to all of us from the start that his teammates and Coach Belichick actually like Cam,” Connolly stated. “That goes a good distance.”
Even Newton’s model of play might need helped his reputation since his dual-threat presence has spurred an overhaul of the workforce’s offensive assault.
“I believe Cam has shocked and energized the fan base as a result of it’s one thing completely different,” stated Scott Zolak, a former Patriots quarterback who has change into a bunch on the Boston sports activities speak radio station WBZ-FM. “And that’s in all probability a very good factor post-Tom Brady.”
After which there’s Newton’s penchant for giving his new teammates nicknames. In interviews with reporters this month, evidently Newton by no means refers to a different Patriot by his first or final title.
Veteran receiver Julian Edelman is “Freeway 11,” a nod to Edelman’s uniform quantity. Offensive deal with Isaiah Wynn is “Winnie the Pooh.” McCourty and his twin brother Jason, who can be a New England defensive again, are “Twin No. 1 and Twin No. 2.” Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is “Mickey Ds.” And, Belichick is “Dolla’ Dolla’ Invoice.” Newton concedes he doesn’t use his nickname for his coach usually.
How the remainder of the Patriots’ season unfolds, and whether or not Newton will proceed to play a predominant function in its success or failure, is but to be seen. However relaxation assured, with some parameters, it’s already being scrutinized as a possible milestone occasion in New England.
“Do I sit up for the day when Black youngsters round Boston have on Newton jerseys? Completely I do,” stated Saida Grundy, an assistant professor of sociology and African-American research at Boston College. “Do I believe that does one thing for Black delight? Or New England? Sure, I do. In the end, that doesn’t change the N.F.L. as a corporation and it doesn’t elevate the Black wealth index right here a dime. It doesn’t desegregate Boston. However that delight is price one thing. Completely, it’s price one thing.”
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