Farewell Tim Tebow
It is neither with particular joy nor sadness that I present an obituary to the professional football career of Tim Tebow. Of course, Tebow can try to play again, but at this point, it’s fairly certain that the once revered college quarterback will never again be offered so much as a tryout for an NFL team.
This coda came as Tebow was cut yesterday after one pre-season game with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team coached by his former college coach Urban Meyer and a mere 90 minutes from his alma mater at the University of Florida. Tebow was given a chance to try out at tight end, which is far different from his original position in almost every way, the position for which he was drafted in the first round in 2009 to play for three very mediocre years with the Broncos and Jets. And after a nine-year layoff and a career that included minor league baseball and sports broadcasting, he decided to give football one more shot, and surprised pretty much everyone when he found a team and a coach willing to make that possible. But after just one practice game, it was clear the 34-year-old was neither skilled nor talented enough to be one of the 53 athletes to make the team.
What’s most surprising isn’t the fact that Tebow didn’t make it. If you believed that Tim Tebow had a legitimate shot to make an NFL roster, you have more faith in God than Tebow himself. To be clear, he didn’t even crack the top 85, which is when things start to get a little serious. What’s most surprising is how viscerally people seemed to react to the fact that he got a shot in the first place, like he just cut the line for Space Mountain.
Perhaps to understand this, one must first understand the cultural phenomenon that is Tim Tebow, and I guess the massive institutions – football and religion – to which he is tied at the hip. Tebow wasn’t just a great college quarterback – and he was that, something even his greatest detractors would likely admit. He was also a mythological archetype, something that falls between genuine and synthetic depending on your perspective. Tebow’s minions, and there’s lots of them, hold him as the exemplar of what can be accomplished through selfless hard work, dogged determination, and a full and open acceptance of Jesus. That’s what earned him a Heisman Trophy and national championship. His haters, and there’s lots of them too, more likely view Tebow as an ego centric narcissist who has no business anywhere near an NFL locker room. And this tryout was simply a publicity stunt that took an opportunity from someone who actually deserved it.
Neither of these realities are completely true, although there’s some verity to both. It’s really hard to argue Tebow’s work ethic, but it’s also impossible to deny his own self adoration, as evidenced by the number of videos he’s produced without a shirt on. But it still seems hard to justify all the intense emotion around one single football player trying out for the league, something that plays out with literally thousands of athletes each year without the polarization of a Donald Trump pep rally.
Perhaps in the end, it comes down to this. In Tim Tebow, we all see what we want to see, and perhaps even our own worldview. For some folks, Tim Tebow represents all that is right with the world. The concept of self-determination, the idea that through hard work you can accomplish all. The notion that we should all recognize a higher power and plan. To others, he’s a living billboard of privilege and hypocrisy, using his power and relationships to get an opportunity he simply doesn’t deserve. And if this dichotomy sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the nexus of a whole lot of other arguments we’re having in this country.
In other words, loving or hating Tim Tebow isn’t about football, at least not for most people, outside the like five Jacksonville Jaguars fans. It’s about how we view the world, how we see equity and God and opportunity and humility. He’s a biblical proverb in a helmet and pads – at least he was until Tuesday. That is probably why so many people got so uptight about some guy who wasn’t going to make the team anyway.
And that is Tebow’s NFL obituary. Not much of a player, but whole lot bigger than the game.
Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler
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