Wednesday, March 28, 2012

a newspaper column that didn't make the newspaper

Editor's note: This particular entry started as a column for the newspaper, but it didn't really work for a number of reasons. So I'm posting it here, for your enjoyment. As always, feel free to attack me here or on Twitter
Root for Tebow, just to stick it to everybody else

Americans love underdog stories. It’s why movies like “Hoosiers” and “Bad News Bears” (the original, not that garbage remake) are so popular. It’s probably why we watch the NCAA Tournament in the first place — to see if the little guys can “shock the world,” in the great American sporting tradition.

It’s also why so many Americans have fallen in love with the Tim Tebow story. Which is interesting because, in reality, Tim Tebow isn’t an underdog.

Tebow, for the fortunate few who don’t have a television or access to news, captured the attention of the entire world last fall, coming off the bench to lead the Denver Broncos to the NFL playoffs. Sure, he compiled a pretty pedestrian stat line — he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, and compiled a record as a starter of only 7-4, to lead the team to an overall 8-8 record in a lousy AFC Western division.

But no one could deny that he was electric — of those 7 wins, 6 were by a margin of a touchdown, or narrower. And almost all of them followed the same script: Tebow and the offense would stink for three quarters, all hope would seem lost … and then he’d do something improbable, and the Broncos would win.

Tebow himself, devoutly religious and bizarrely humble, became the lightning rod for analysts and fans alike. There was no middle ground: either you hated his mechanics and killed him for failing to play like a “professional” quarterback (and risked sounding like a cynic); or you overpraised him and wished your team had a quarterback like him (and risked sounding like an overzealous nutjob).

Even politicians got into the mix — then Republican candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry each compared themselves to Tebow in the run-up to primary season.

They were correct, but probably not for the reasons they wanted to be.

Let’s get this out of the way, lest we be misunderstood. Tebow is, by all accounts, a nice person, and someone whose spirituality and humility seem perfectly genuine. There was a moment during the Broncos’ come-from-behind win over the Chicago Bears that stands out as the most “Tebow” moment of the entire run: After his teammates recovered an onsides kick to give him a chance to lead a game-tying drive, the NFL Films microphones caught Tebow, calmly donning his helmet, singing the popular praise tune, “Lord I Lift Your Name On High,” like he was headed out to a Thursday practice.
That kind of stuff is neat. Even I can admit that.

Of course, Tebow isn’t a “rags to riches” story, or even really an “underdog” story. He was born to a perfectly stable, white, two-parent household, one that had a lot of money and afforded him all the advantages in the world. He was one of the most highly sought after high school athletes in the country — remember him bringing his high school team to Hoover in 2005, for a game on national television? — and was part of a top-5 college program in the country all four years he was there.

But the NFL overlooked him, you say! Yes, so much so that the Broncos had to wait all the way until the … um, well, the first round. They took him with their first pick in 2010.
And it’s not as though his detractors have any particular dislike for him personally. He has bad throwing mechanics, struggles to make good decisions in the pocket and generally doesn’t look anything like a “prototypical” NFL quarterback. His boss, John Elway, would probably be better suited for the job right this second, and he retired in 1999.

The fact that he’s not a typical NFL signal-caller, honestly, is what makes me root for him, at the end of the day. I’m not sure if anything otherworldly is driving the man, but every time he does something correctly, it’s another thumb in the eye of the self-righteous horde of professional analysts, all of whom loudly scream about “WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED IN THIS LEAGUE,” like it’s a weird religion that only the pure NFL fan can truly appreciate. Give me a break.

So here’s to you, Tim. We don’t know how you’re doing it, but we hope you keep it up. Just because.

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