Night net Doing a radio show on Monday, I was asked: Has there been a bigger disparity between quarterbacks in The Big Game?This has become the question of Denver vs. Carolina, and likely narrative of Super Bowl week in San Francisco. Because there is nothing we love more than pointing out, analyzing and focusing on differences — real or imagined. They. And I.He. And them. Manning. And Newton.MORE: Super Bowl MVP odds | Betting lines, angles and trendsIf you look beyond the obvious for 10 seconds, what you discover is Cam Newton and Peyton Manning actually have quite a bit in common.Yes, really.I know the argument being ma
de about how one is brash and unbreakable, how he runs and throws and dabs and delivers a killer Superman impersonation, how one has been criticized and doubted and trolled by the uninformed, the idiots, the contrarians.Only this describes both of them; save for the obvious frequency of and speed at which they run and age. For all we know, Manning dabs all the time in the privacy of his own life.The labels stereotypes are everywhere and in both directions. Do you really believe Newton is brasher than Manning? Or do they simply display this necessary trait of great athletes in different ways? Or that one has to don an imaginary cape to believe he is Superman?To achieve on the level of athletic greatness, you have to believe in yourself in a way that borders brashness. There is nothing wrong with this, and just because we do not see it does not mean it is not there.And this idea that Newton is the only one who has faced criticism and has had to shut down his detractors infuriates me. Newton just faced his from jump, while Manning has faced them later in football life — benched, booed and doubted as recently as a few weeks ago.And to my mind, this commonality is far more important than an age difference.MORE: How they were built: Broncos | Panthers | Roster vs. rosterThere is something universal about being an athlete; you do not play sports with any measure of greatness without being challenged. How you handle that challenge defines you, and ultimately determines if you make the jump from good to great.Watching Newton as he has deftly deflected criticism from the legit to the idiotic is very much like watching Manning; both shut down critics with results not whining.And yet we forge on with this showdown narrative — what was vs. what’s next. This is so American culture nowadays, looking to divide everybody into R and Ds, girls and boys, black and white, young and old. Divide, divide, divide. Set up showdowns and highlight differences. It’s great for ratings.I know the argument being made about how one is old and humbled and broken, how he barely runs and throws with a little less zip, how age has kryptonite’d his Superman, how one has been feted and crowned early and loved by an adoring sports media, how one is a philanthropist who loves kids and is loved by his teammates.This is Manning, yes. This is also Newton (except for the old and the running).Because let’s be honest: Watching Newton scramble and watching that first-down scramble by Manning in the AFC championship game resembled running in the same way Tom Brady and Tom Delay both resemble the male form. Only slightly. But do we really believe Cam has never once been humbled in his time in the league, that he has not had a moment or two or 457 of self doubt? Just because he does not wear his on the outside does not mean they do not exist.MORE: Newton not the problem; you are | Cam: Southern to the coreOr that giving a ball to a young kid does not come from the same heart that a Manning Children’s Hospital Donation does.They both are talented. They both are loved by their teammates.They both are humble and brash. They both are great.They are different, yes, but it’s the same kind of different.