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 superstar. 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 sector, Brady is a standard, old-style pocket passer, whereas Newton’s biggest asset is a versatility that features inventive, 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 repute as not precisely being probably the most numerous place.”
Due to his dynamic play within the Patriots’ first three games this season — two of them victories — Newton, by almost 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 would possibly win the N.F.L.’s Most Worthwhile Participant Award. His jersey is a prime vendor within the six New England states since Sept. 1, in accordance with Fanatics, the most important on-line vendor of licensed sports activities merchandise. (Though, apparently, 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 locally warily watching and questioning if he might be handled in another 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 vital sufficient missteps for Cam Newton, then that opens the floodgates for the entire 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 shouldn’t be 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 season 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 have the ability to give attention to what’s happening on the sector.’”
Newton’s acceptance by the Patriots group 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 crew.
“No person works more durable than Cam does — he’s right here early, he stays late and he works very laborious,” Belichick stated final month. “He’s acquired a terrific persona. He will get together with all people. He’s very social and has a terrific presence.”
Belichick’s ardent, and fast, help of Newton was a shock to many since Newton’s flashy persona appeared in battle with the strait-laced method of Belichick. However Jermaine Wiggins, a decent finish on the Patriots’ first Tremendous Bowl championship crew who’s now a number on the Boston sports activities speak radio station WEEI, by no means doubted that Belichick would discover frequent floor along with his new quarterback.
“In case you take 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 rather a lot and wouldn’t have lasted this lengthy with out having the ability to modify and get together with all forms of gamers.”
One other early turning level for Newton might have come after New England’s solely loss so far, a recreation 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 have been the outstanding explanation for the play’s failure, Newton took the blame afterward and stated he ought to have tried a unique 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 crew 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 great distance.”
Even Newton’s model of play may need helped his reputation since his dual-threat presence has spurred an overhaul of the crew’s offensive assault.
“I believe Cam has shocked and energized the fan base as a result of it’s one thing totally different,” stated Scott Zolak, a former Patriots quarterback who has turn into a number 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, plainly 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 also 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 typically.
How the remainder of the Patriots’ season unfolds, and whether or not Newton will proceed to play a predominant position 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 look ahead to the day when Black children 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 company and it doesn’t increase the Black wealth index right here a dime. It doesn’t desegregate Boston. However that delight is value one thing. Completely, it’s value one thing.”
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