Michael Vick had his breakout year in 2002. The dual-threat quarterback threw for almost 3,000 yards and rushed for nearly 1,000 more -- all while adding a total of 24 touchdowns. Vick captured the imagination of fans, and quickly became a favorite. This was the same year Atlanta native Cam Newton turned 13 years old, and just over a decade later the Panthers' QB isn't afraid to talk about his allegiance to the Dirty Birds.
It's always a heavily critiqued game. ... I've always been a Falcons fan, and I'm still a Falcons fan except for those two times a year.
Newton's comments aren't popular among the overreacting set, who choose to see this as the young QB not having enough loyalty to the Panthers. Those predisposed to disliking Newton will continue to do so, much as Colin Kaepernick caught some flack for wearing a Miami Dolphins hat at a Fourth of July party.
There are times when a hat is just a hat, and being a childhood fan is just that. Any insinuation that Newton's admiration of the Falcons extends onto the field should be squashed, as the Panthers' quarterback posted a 113.8 QB rating against Atlanta last year, while adding six touchdowns and no turnovers.
Fans want their favorite players to embody the animosity they feel towards their hated teams, but ultimately it's misguided -- especially when a team is as young as the Carolina Panthers are. Hating the Falcons won't translate into more wins, and does little more than placate the vocal minority.