As mentioned here numerous times before, Serena Williams’s entire career has been a prolonged troll for White Tears. From the moment the Williams sisters emerged from Compton and disrupted the tennis world’s effete and bourgeois establishment, White Tears have trailed her the way breadcrumbs trailed Hansel and Gretel. They’re shed when she wins, when she receives awards, when she expresses happiness, when she expresses anger, when she just exists. It’s almost as if she’s a Medela Swing Breastpump for White Tears, her very presence helping them drip and squirt, distilled and delicious, into BPA-free bottles.
Her White Tears inducing game is so fierce, in fact, that along with being the world’s most dominant athlete, she’s also consistently outpaced each of her contemporaries when determining the volume of White Tears induced. The only athlete who even rivals her in this capacity is Lebron James. But although “The Decision” caused more athlete-related White Tears to be shed than any other year in the 21st century — seriously, that year was like the 1992 Dream Team of White Tears — he hasn’t caused them to rain as consistently and torrentially as Serena has her entire career.
But today, on the 21st day of January in the year 2016, we have to collectively recognize another legitimate challenger to Serena’s throne. His name? Cameron Jerrell Newton.
Like Serena, Cam Newton’s entire career in the public eye has been accompanied by White Tears. There were the complaints that his Auburn team was dirty and classless and he — an historically great college quarterback — wasn’t deserving of the Heisman trophy. When going through the pre-draft interview process, one of the NFL’s most prominent draft analysts said he was “very disingenuous” and “has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup” and “has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble.”
In sports-speak, these are coded ways of saying “great Black athlete who is not as humble as I, White person, would like him to be.” And, there’s no doubt they were intended on being dog whistles for the predominately White GMs and owners deciding whether to draft him. It didn’t hurt his stock — he remained the number one pick — but that perception has stuck with him his entire career.
Now, a Black athlete dominating in football today generally doesn’t induce the same type of diffident, racially insecure anxiety as a Black athlete dominating in tennis does. A Black (male) athlete succeeding at football or basketball or baseball aren’t just tolerated aspects of our cultural zeitgeist. They’re vital. Integral. A not-at-all insignificant part of America’s identity is connected to the psychic space we devote to sports. The identities of our universities, cities, and regions are often determined by how successful the sports teams connected to these entities happen to be. And, in 2016, this success (or lack thereof) is predominately determined by Black men.
But Cam Newton is a quarterback. Which happens to be the single most prominent position in sports. And also happens to be perhaps the last position exclusively reserved for those fitting a certain racial and cultural ideal. Sure, there have been outliers. Michael Vick, for instance. But because the quarterback is often considered to be the extension of the coaches, the front offices, and the owners — and because of the enhanced mental and emotional acuity often thought to be necessary to succeed there — the men desired for that position tend to follow a certain archetypal script. If you do happen to be Black, it’s preferred that you’re as non-threateningly Black or as anonymously Black as possible. Cam Newton is neither. He’s overtly cocky. He dances, taunts, and preens. He bullies. He smiles. He talks shit. He antagonizes.
Now, this behavior isn’t markedly different than the behavior displayed by other prominent (and White) quarterbacks. Such as Tom Brady, who regularly and famously throws full temper tantrums on the field, like a kid told to stop stuffing peanuts in his Pampers. And its no more obnoxious than Peyton Manning’s annoyingly performative Asperger’s. But Brady and Manning don’t get multiple letters from pearl-clutching fans offended by a football player playing football. They don’t have to deal with questions about whether their behavior is befitting a quarterback and would be more appropriate for a wide receiver. They don’t have to deal with White People (capital letters) White Peopling. But Cam has his entire career. And, as he continues to dominate on the field — and his team continues to ascend — the frequency and intensity of the White Tears shed will increase.
So, does the bevy of White Tears collected by Cam Newton measure up to Serena’s reservoir yet? No, it doesn’t. While Cam’s White Tears are exclusively American, Serena makes them squirt across seas. She’s ultimately the Hernando de Soto of White Tears, which makes her the winner (again).