It has been quite a while since hair products have held sway over me– though I applied shampoo to the top of my head long after it was only the wispy dreamers on the sides that needed tending–but when Cam Newton, Carolina’s polarizing quarterback, league MVP and media VIP, attracted national attention for his dab, the only association in my brain was a jingle as old as yours truly: Brylcreem, a little dab’ll do ya. I had no idea what Cam’s dab was. Every picture of him dabbin’ showed him with his head buried in the crook of his arm, like a strap-hanging commuter with a cold. I assumed that dabbin’ meant showing off in a still pose, like voguing.
Not so. A google search for dab, not nearly as comprehensive as you’d imagine, reveals dab to be a complete dance in two moves. That sneeze in the elbow is the whole deal. All the criticism of Cam Newton that has dogged him through his career, his ego, flamboyant style, Superman persona, that braggadocio that so annoys his old school critics and keeps the flame under the conversation about race and culture and professionalism and media, that criticism is summed up, memed for lack of a better word, in the dab.
After Sunday’s devastating loss in the Super Bowl, Cam Newton was not dabbin’. His post game interview, two of the most painful minutes of noise and silence in sports video history, has gone viral. His critics found another gear and ran over him coming and going. You have to be professional, they said–and some saying it had Super Bowl rings on their fingers–even in that situation. You have a duty to your teammates, to the game. You are the face of the franchise, indeed the NFL. Man up.
Well, in fact, man down. Man very down. Cam in a hoodie showed up for the obligatory post game presser, but he was absent. The man behind the face was lost inside his own head. It seemed images from the game, fresh shudders, would strike at random and imprint a flicker of pain on his expression out of sync with question or answer. He was reliving the game one horrific moment after another, his face car-crash blank. Then a voice from the din asked about the second fumble, the one where Cam looked at the ball like it was a ripe diaper on the front seat of his Hummer. Cam’s heart finds the bottom of the hole. It is painful to watch.
Come to think of it, his signature flair may be the perfect expression for Cam Newton’s Super Bowl. That incongruous connection between the image of a head buried in the crook of the elbow and crushing domination acquires a much more appropriate image for his defeat. A stylized weeping of a heartsick beatdown.
A little dab’ll do ya.