In the interest of full disclosure I do not know Peyton Manning or Cam Newton. Outside of watching them play football, and some interviews I’ve seen them do, articles I’ve read about them or commercials I’ve watched with them in it I don’t know much about either one.
One is “old” at 39 years old and the other is “young” at 26 years old.
One is black. The other is white.
Both of them will be playing in the Super Bowl in February.
Each of them, in their own way, has given us a remarkable spectrum into the complexity of life we all lead as human beings.
And reminded me of our need to reacquaint ourselves with what it means to be great.
On one hand there is Peyton Manning. He seems like a good guy. I always enjoy listening to him do interviews because he seems sincere and concerned about never taking too much credit for himself – and careful about making sure he is giving enough credit to his teammates.
I always wonder if there’s a joyful and spirited personality behind that carefully constructed public persona.
I chuckle at his commercials and wonder whether that person on television is the rule or the exception to who Peyton Manning is at any given point in time.
Then there’s Cam Newton. Young. Brash. Handsome and bold. He’s enjoying himself and he’s not about to be quiet about it. There’s no question that this young man has a talent we’ve never seen before in the position he plays in the NFL.
He’s gone from a quarterback with talent who just never seemed he could get to the big show to a young man who’s on the precipice of being one game away from having his journey sealed in the history books of professional sports.
And, that’s about what I know about both of these individuals who will soon lead them team on the field in one of the most watched athletic spectacles in the world.
I know that if I were so inspired I could google anything and everything about them. I also know there would be no shortage of people who admired and looked up to them – and no shortage of those who do not.
For a few hours during the NFL Season we see these two men doing things playing the same position with decidedly different talents achieving often similar outcomes: Victory.
Yet, on Super Bowl Sunday one will walk off the field the winner and the other the loser.
To be honest, I could go either way with who I will root for on Sunday.
I appreciate the story about the old guy, likely making his last journey to the Big Show, having fought back from injury to vanquish an opponent who has been his nemesis. For a real old guy like me there’s a jolly good reason for me to see this game belong to Peyton Manning.
But, I like Cam Newton. I appreciate his brash manner and his cocky self-assuredness. There’s no shortage of reminders in him of what it was like to be that young, talented and convinced that anything was possible if people would just climb on and believe.
I have long believed in the power of Hero’s. Which is different than a role model. I don’t know enough about either of these two men to know whether or not either could be a role model for my kids or for other people’s kids.
But, for my kids I don’t need Peyton Manning or Cam Newton to be their role model.
I would be delighted to have them be their heroes.
I want my kids to see men like them – and women like Serena Williams and Lindsey Vonn and Danica Patrick and Venus Williams and Mia Hamm and others – succeed against all odds – to be great – to aspire to be better than average or good – to be the best at what they do.
I want my children to celebrate those who aren’t content to be average at what they do in their life that defines them.
I also want them to understand that there are winners and losers in life. To me the true quality of a winner is how they treat losers – and the true character of a loser is how they respect winners.
A hero doesn’t have to be perfect in life. In so many ways the best hero is the imperfect person. It makes who they are, what they do and how they impact us so much more meaningful and authentic and real.
Peyton Manning and Cam Newton aren’t perfect. Not because I know so or say so. But, I suspect it is because they know it and wouldn’t be shy about saying so.
That is, when all is said and done, the mark of greatness and the symbol of the hero.
There’s a Cam Newton and Peyton Manning and Mia Hamm and Serena Williams in all of us.
And that fact alone makes none of us average but great and capable of being a hero.