September 12, 2015
Tim Tebow at no time was ever on the Eagles' 53 man roster, and yet, I probably got more emails about him than any other player I've ever covered, DeSean Jackson aside.
Here are some of the emails I received about Mr. Tebow. I did not correct grammatical errors.
I use to think of Chip as a person with a strength enough to be outside of the "group think" network. After the Tebow cut. Regretfully I see I was wrong. Rambo is right. The Eagles should have kept Tebow. I guess if he would have punched a few women, gotten a few DWI's, beaten a few children, or failed a drug tests or two he might be more attractive to win by any means folks.
#JimmyNote: This email came in to another one of our writers, Daniel Craig. The Rambo part is in reference to Sylvester Stallone saying that Tim Tebow should be the Eagles' starting quarterback. Because, you know, Tango > Chip.
You just don't get it. You can knock down Tebow all you want but he is a winner. He knows how to get wins. He may not be the kind of QB you want but he will add to the Eagles success. You sports writers like to pick on all that he hasn't done like not throwing to the guy in end zone. But guess what on first down he drove it to the inches line. And the next play they scored. I think you just don't like him because he is a devout Christian. If you could only be half the man he is. Did you win the Heisman trophy and two National Championships. Oh what have you done? Oh that's right you know how to pick a part people in your wonderful writing skills. You are sure making yourself a legacy.
#JimmyNote: To note, this email was in response to the following screenshot I took of the Eagles-Ravens preseason game, in which Tebow had the widest open receiver ever and chose instead to try to run it in.
The next guy took issue with that screen shot too.
You're an idiot. Tebow didn't throw to the receiver open in the end zone because (as Tebow explained but either you didn't hear or, more likely, deliberately ignore) it was first down and he had a chance at running it in! On first and goal the most important objective is to not turn the ball over. Tebow said had it been third down or even second down, he would have thrown. But it was first down, and throwing is always riskier (tipped ball, bobbled ball, etc.). No doubt you criticized Pete Carroll and the Seahawks for throwing on first down and losing the Super Bowl, right? Well, unlike Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, Tebow didn't turn the ball over, rather he moved it to within inches of the goal line, and the Eagles went on to score a touchdown. Blinded by your hatred of Tebow, you fail to grasp this.
#JimmyNote: If the most important objective on first down is to not turn it over, maybe the Eagles should have just knelt it.
Assuming, contrary to all evidence, the sincerity of your question - "Why do people fawn over Tim Tebow?" - I want to propose some answers.
It is written that the NFL, like all sport, is about winning - a simple-minded nostrum given its most memorable form in Raiders' owner Al Davis' laughable imperative - "Just win, baby!" The reduction of the game of football to winning is useful for team owners and the League - a way to quantify success which businessmen (and some sportswriters) can understand.
In ancient Rome, a central sport at the Colosseum, which held 75,000 spectators, was the Lions (not from Detroit) v. the Saints (not from New Orleans). Though the outcome was never in doubt, - the Saints, then as now, lost - fans cheered and jeered, while their divine Emperor directed the proceedings.
However, for fans, this trite formulation almost (though not quite) misses the point. Rather, it misunderstands fans' fundamental interests.
In fact, as all fans know, football is about the struggle between 'us' and 'them'; about dramatic conflict, and its occasionally inspiring resolution; about those who rise to an occasion, and those who cannot; about working together in pursuit of something no one can achieve on their own. In these ways and many others, football connects to recurring, large issues in fans' everyday lives; and this is at the root of our interests. Football, when it really engages, is a microcosm of the dynamic forces at work in today's world.
The best football players are instrumental in this, encouraging our connection to the game. Of the various reasons this fan like Tim Tebow, let me mention three -
1. Tebow plays with enthusiasm and emotion, as though he cares about the game. This, of course, distinguishes him from most players, whose responses to game events are guarded, jaded, opaque. More importantly for fans, his enthusiasm causes us to recall our own joyful engagements, events life does not provide in much abundance.
With the multiple rejections he's now suffered, some fans worry over Tebow's resilience, even as they've reeled from their own setbacks.
2. Tebow values hard work as the way to achieve his goals. Like most fans, he accepts that there is a steep price to pay for accomplishment, yet proceeds undaunted. Along these lines, my favorite Tebow-ism is - "You're going to get knocked own. But it's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how many times you get back up."
Fans, most of whom have 'played by the rules', and gotten knocked own in the process, admire this devotion; especially in the face of evidence that, in America, success is increasingly unearned - a matter of privilege, conniving, or luck.
The reason fans are infuriated over Tebow being cut by the Eagles has to do with fairness. Why does Matt Barkley, who Tebow clearly outplayed this pre-season, now have a job, while the guy who outperformed him is sent packing? Similar inequities arise every day in fans' lives (in matters of employment, housing, finance, etc., etc.). Remarkably, though, these injustices are largely tolerated, while with football, fans are far less forgiving. For them, for me, Tebow's release illustrates the truth that hard work in this country (and in the NFL) no longer makes much of a difference.
3. Tebow seems a decent person, interested as much in good works as playing football. A familiar complaint of sportswriters has to do with his faith, and its, at times, heavy-handed expression. Fans, though, understand this is harmless enough; while believing in the value of character - another quality most fans share with Tebow, and which defines an important part of their own self worths. His being cut by the Eagles reiterates to fans that character is not much respected in the NFL, or in the wider culture.
Sportswriters counter that, no matter these 'intangibles', Tebow is not an NFL caliber quarterback. (What is NFL caliber? 9mm or .357 Magnum?) The media also complains of the 'media circus' that follows him (Does this suggest some writers see other writers as clowns?). These are, by now, ancient accusations, overtaken this pre-season by the self-evident truth, apparent to anyone with two eyes, that Tebow is more than good enough for the NFL; and that the 'circus' has pulled up stakes and left town.
In ancient Rome, a central sport at the Colosseum, which held 75,000 spectators, was the Lions (not from Detroit) v. the Saints (not from New Orleans). Though the outcome was never in doubt, - the Saints, then as now, lost - fans cheered and jeered, while their divine Emperor directed the proceedings. And yet, there were standards. By comparison, football is less immediately lethal, and fans' rooting interests much more nuanced.
Beyond winning, what fans most want from football is the appearance of fair play, a 'level playing field', and with this, re-affirmation of the values by which they've lived their lives, and which (just barely) bind our society together. Commissioner Goodell's nebulous notion of the "integrity of the game" runs in this direction. However, as a fan, I am here to tell you that a couple of slightly under-inflated footballs amount to nothing next to the patent mistreatment of an athlete who successfully (and then some) accomplished all that was asked of him, and was then told by his coach that he's "not good enough" to play third string quarterback.
Eagles' Coach Chip Kelly, who rendered this judgement, and whom sportswriters routinely describe as a "genius", has won precisely one NFL playoff game in his two years in the League. One playoff victory! - the same number Tebow has won. Unlike Tebow, Kelly, while coach at Oregon, was sanctioned by the NCAA for violating its rules.
In 2013, it was Tebow's misfortune to play for another NFL "genius" with a history of disciplinary issues - Bill Belichick, as much in the news today as ever, almost always for the wrong reasons .
"Genius" in the NFL is a recent, unfortunate phenomenon - much more an excuse for boorish behavior and the inexplicable, rather than a description of enlightened playmaking. The Packers' Vince Lombardi won a greater percentage of the games he coached than anyone else. Nobody called him a genius, and if they had, he would have decked them. Renaissance artists Leonardo and Michelangelo were geniuses. Chip and Bill coach football.
And why is NFL-style "genius" so much focussed on bending (and breaking) the rules, cutting corners, and subterfuge, rather than innovating and advancing the game?
Should Kelly's Eagles be successful this season, there will be further discussion of his genius. When, as probability suggests, the team fails, this discussion will disappear, and Kelly will become, like Tebow, just another guy looking for his next job in the NFL. A central difference, however, is that this fan, and a million others, will be rooting for Tim Tebow; while resisting the urge to describe Chip Kelly as "not good enough".
#JimmyNote: To note, this was actually written to another Eagles writer, but I was cc'ed for some reason. Anyway... Certifiable.
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski