Calvin Johnson burst onto the scene in 2007 as a prototype wide receiver who broke the mold for the position. 6’5”, 236 lbs, deadly fast, Johnson was soon terrorizing secondaries around the NFL. He decided to take on a moniker based off the life-action Transformers blockbuster that hit cinemas the same year that Johnson hit the League. He chose the name ‘Megatron’ as his new alias. Like his new namesake he was an unstoppable machine on the football field.
For children of the eighties, though, Megatron is as close to evil incarnate as one could get. For some, Johnson had cursed himself with the choice. Megatron was associated with other things than kicking mechanical skulls. There was the overcomplicated scheming and underwhelming results. Thus, the Detroit Lions. Combined with his Madden cover for Madden 13, Johnson has committed karmic suicide. Oddly enough, Johnson is a really nice guy and nothing like Megatron besides the name.
Johnson is not the only one who associates with a super powered nickname. We have our own right here in the person of Cam “Superman” Newton. Every time Newton scores, he feigns the reveal of the Superman costume underneath.
However, do we want our quarterback to be Superman? Superman usually does things on his own and depends mostly on himself. It is difficult for him to be self-sacrificing because he is impervious to anything not named kryptonite. Also, Superman has a highly unequal relationship to those around him. They, the silly mortals, have to be saved. He does the saving. Not exactly the model of teamwork.
So where should Cam go for guidance? Why not look at the archnemesis of Megatron? Yes, I am suggesting Cam should emulate Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots.
Optimus Prime is a more mature and steady leader who not only leads his Autobots, but cares about them. He always works with them, not in spite of them. They depend and trust him because he trusts them. Then, when times are really difficult, Optimus has the inner reserve and self-sacrificing toughness to personally intervene.
Embracing Optimus would not necessarily force Cam to change a thing, but it would bring a new team dynamic to the growing popularity that is Cam Newton. No need for a Peter Cullen dubbing (though Cam sounding like Peter Cullen would be AWESOME), and please keep Michael Bay away from the Panthers. If Newton can embrace his inner Optimus then the 2014 Panthers could transform and roll out to the Playoffs.