A couple weeks ago a few of Tim Tebow’s teammates anonymously spoke to the press about their second-string quarterback. While most players who work with Tebow have only positive things to say about him, these players were a little disrespectful. The fact they spoke anonymously was weak, and Coach Ryan went so far as to call them cowards.
Regardless, Tim Tebow has become one of those characters people either love or hate. Sports announcers praise him or roll their eyes. There seems to be no middle ground on the young quarterback. And it all makes me wonder why.
Never in the history of the league has a player that’s seen so little playing time got this much attention by the press. It’s almost as if ESPN has to feature Tebow each week in order to satisfy, or irritate, their viewers.
The reality is, Tim Tebow has become a symbol for something other than whoever Tim Tebow really is. And when people talk about him, they’re talking about whatever it is that symbol represents.
To be fair, Tim plays into this characterization intentionally. He creates his own caricature. And whether he’s sincere or not, he’s the one building his image every time he prays in the endzone or grants a locker-room interview. In an Amish romance novel, Tim would play the part of hero. Which is precisely why so many people love him or find him irritating.
When I told a friend I was writing a blog about what people do and don’t like about Tim Tebow, she scolded me and told me to leave him alone before she even knew what I was writing!
A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates the essence of a person. And while I happen to like Tim Tebow (and side with those who do in the culture war) I do confess when the camera is on him, he comes off as more of a cartoon of a person than a person. I don’t think I’d even notice if his rather perfect responses appeared in speech bubbles over his head.
And yet who is winning in all this? Who is Tim’s self-created caricature benefiting? In my opinion, all the right people. Tim wins, teens win, families win, those looking for a role model win and football culture in general wins. Christian pop-culture wins and while you might find it a little cheesy sometimes, I have no problem with it. There are worse things that can happen to the world.
If I had a twelve-year old son or daughter, I’d be stapling a Tim Tebow poster to each of their walls.
So, why do people like and not like Tim Tebow? Here are a few perspectives. Feel free to add more in the comments.
WHY PEOPLE LIKE HIM:
- 1. He’s an enormously hard-working athlete. Coaches love him for his work ethic. In defense of Tim, Rex Ryan stated he’s possibly the hardest working member of the team, always at practice early, always leaving last. Who could ask for more?
2. He acts as a Christian role model. When not on the field, Tim goes on mission trips, talks openly about his faith, speaks at churches and prays in the end zone. He makes no apologies for his relationship with Jesus.
3. Tim doesn’t force his faith on anybody. He’s not a controlling guy. His faith is his and he respects whatever it is you believe.
4. He turns the other cheek. What is his response to constant criticism? Constant kindness. Tim smiles and says it’s part of the game and part of life. He then talks about how much he loves his teammates and wants to help everybody win.
5. He wins. Americans love a winner, and Tim Tebow finds ways to win. Will he last in the NFL? Perhaps, perhaps not. He is not yet a great or even good NFL quarterback but he was of the best in the college game and certainly had some shining moments in Denver. He’s already a winner and nothing he does in the future will change that. He’s got nothing to prove.
And there are more, of course.
SO, WHY DO PEOPLE NOT LIKE HIM?
- 1. He can come off as fake. Aaron Sorkin famously said “there’s no point in writing about someone unless they’re flawed.” And Tebow presents himself, largely, as a man without flaws. How does he feel about players disrespecting him? He just loves them and moves on. Is this true? Does it really not bother him? Perhaps, but it’s not quite believable.
2. Tim makes people feel bad about their own lives. This is just a hunch, but I think Tim’s “goodness” has a way of making people feel bad about their “badness.” Not knowing Tim, I can tell you he doesn’t come off as a guy I feel like I could be around myself. Should I take a sip of my beer, should I talk about girls, has he seen Arrested Development? Even having to ask these questions about a person makes the thought of being with them tiring.
3. He gets a free publicity ride. People don’t like Tebow because he gets an enormous amount of attention for what he represents rather than for his skill in football. The two are not equally matched. Tim is good, but he hasn’t done anything to prove himself on the NFL field. And yet, he’s one of the more talked about NFL players, if not the most talked about. Some people think Tim is getting a free publicity ride for what he represents. Personally, I don’t have a problem with it. When you have dancing cheerleaders, three-hour pre-game shows, fireworks and rock bands at halftime, and big-screen televisions the size of cruise ships dangling above the stadium, football has ceased to be about just football. Tim has an interesting personality. Sue him.
4. Tim uses the microphone for his cause. He’s not doing it as much anymore, but Tim is known to get his plug for Jesus into his pre and post-game interviews. It can sometimes remind you of the sponsors in NASCAR that the drivers need to talk about. “I just want to thank NAPA and CRAFTSMAN for their support.” There are plenty of other Christian athletes who manage to talk about their faith without making Jesus sound like their sponsor or flag. Tim just sounds different.
In closing, I think Tim is a great role model for just about anybody. I’m for the guy until he plays the Seahawks.
I’ll keep praying for Russell Wilson, though. The rookie quarterback up in Seattle happens to be another great Christian and great role model. And he’s pretty down to earth and not half as controversial. Now that’s a guy I could crack open a beer in church with. Go Hawks!