The Norman Transcript

January 14, 2012

No end in sight to Tebowmania

Denver quarterback has become the most polarizing person in the world of sports.

Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — One of the perks of covering the Oklahoma City Thunder is that they provide the media with a nice pregame meal. It varies from game to game, but more often than not, it’s a good meal.

Before I leave the dining area, I usually have a conversation with one of the Thunder employees. She asks me how my day is going, about the game that night and whatever else is on her mind. But last week she asked me who I was pulling for in the playoff game between the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers.

When I told her I wanted the Steelers to win because I can’t stand the Broncos and Tim Tebow, she made the statement that the only reason I hate Tebow is because he prays during games.

I tried to explain to her that that was not the case. That when he was in Florida he beat Oklahoma, that he’s being treated differently than other quarterbacks who has the same limited skill set, etc. She wasn’t having none of it. No matter what I said, she stood by her belief that I was part of the ever increasing collection of Tebow haters, that is growing just as fast as the Tebow-maniacs, because of his fervent religious beliefs.

Tebow has become the most polarizing person in the world of sports. He is no longer just a sports topic, but a national debate involving religion, race, privilege and class. And media outlets are falling over each over to cover it at ad-nauseam. Some more than others.

ESPN has become Tim Tebow central. You can’t go 10 minutes on any of its seemingly hundreds of channels without seeing something on him. That includes the shows that have nothing to do with the NFL.

“I like Tim, but you have a tendency to want to, I don’t want to see Tim do bad, but look what happens after he wins a football game,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. “If you watched SportsCenter it was Tim Tebow then something else, Tim Tebow then something else, and Tim Tebow then something else.”

In some respects I can’t blame them. Someone is obviously telling the shows producers that viewership increases when Tebow is a part of the debate.

Even more weird is how one person can show the divide that exists among us. There doesn’t seem to be segment of the population that doesn’t have a dog in the debate. Even those who have no use for sports in their lives have found a reason to love or hate the man. It’s truly one of the more amazing things I’ve ever witnessed.

Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Michael Jordan are the closes comparisons I can think of, but Tebow’s popularity rise is different. The following around him started out as whether he even deserved to be in the NFL. Now it includes such wild ideas as does God favor Tebow more than other players and the more serious questions of how much should religion be part of professional sports.

“I sit at home, start watching TV and all I’m seeing is Tebow,” Packers tight end JaMarcus Finley told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “That’s kind of disturbing. We have a guy here that’s breaking records every week and you have a guy in Tebow that’s saying ‘God’ every word and he gets coverage. Of course I love my faith and God, but come on man.”

I have no clue what type of career Tebow will have in the NFL long term. I know what my eyes tell me and my years of watching the game tells me the same thing. And that is that he’s an overrated quarterback who only survived not being cut because he has convinced people his personality, faith and character are more important that actual talent. If his career ends up being better than Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell or Gino Toretta, I will be surprised.

But as Tebow has proved this year, nothing is impossible.

“If you believe, unbelievable things can sometimes be possible,” Tebow said.

 

Michael Kinney 366-3537 mkinney@normantranscript.com