How much is your child worth? How much is your child’s reputation worth? In 30-plus years of writing about sports, I’ve never really pondered those questions — why ponder the imponderable? — but now, thanks to the latest installment in the Cam Newton Saga, I am.
And, not to put too fine a point on it, I want to retch.
I don’t know if Cecil Newton put a price tag on his son Cam. I only know that Kenny Rogers, the former Mississippi State player who may (or may not) have been the link between the Newtons and John Bond, who touched off this whole tempest eight days ago, went on ESPN 103.3 in Dallas on Thursday and claimed the elder Newton named a price. Quoth Rogers: “Anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000.”
Understand: This doesn’t mean anything untoward actually happened. Rogers admitted Thursday that he doesn’t know if Auburn paid a dime for its quarterback. “No idea,” he said, and then he said it again.
Still, the details Rogers provided regarding his meeting with the Newtons — a date (Nov. 27, 2009) and a place (the Hilton Garden Inn in Starkville, Miss.) and another place (a Shell station off Highway 82) — indicates that he’s one of two things: A keen observer or a fabulist of the first rank. And now we must ask: Why would Kenny Rogers, who runs a company that supposedly matches prospects with schools, make this stuff up?
Rogers said he asked to go on-air with the Dallas station to clarify matters, and he clarified a few. He never spoke directly to Bond, as the former Valdosta quarterback suggested in an interview with fellow VHS alum Buck Belue last Friday on 680 The Fan, but talked instead with another Mississippi State alum named Bill Bell.
According to Brandon Marcello of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Bell played at MSU in 1978 and 1980-1982. Marcello reports that Bell owns a roofing company in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., and was said to be out of the country on Thursday.
We may never know if the Newtons received any money for Cam’s athletic services. But we now have reason to believe questions will forever hang over Cam Newton’s career: If his father was asking $180,000 from Mississippi State and Newton didn’t go there, was there in fact a selling price? If so, what? And if so, who paid it?
We also have growing reason to believe this: Cecil Newton isn’t the leading candidate for father of the year. Even if no money changed hands, the mere suggestion that money was being discussed has turned the happiest story in college football into the saddest. Thanks, Dad.