x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

NFL: clock will not stop ticking on Tim Time for Tebow

So much attention paid to a player who has done so little. Whose stat line from last season is remarkable only for its, well, shortage of statistics.

New York Jets quarterback and now free agent, Tim Tebow, right, walks away with the Jets assistant coach, Louis Aguiar. Mel Evans / AP Photo
New York Jets quarterback and now free agent, Tim Tebow, right, walks away with the Jets assistant coach, Louis Aguiar. Mel Evans / AP Photo

Tim. Tebow.

No two words associated with American sports stoke arguments, harden opinions and inflame passions like the name of this polarising figure in pro football.

Not just Tebow the player, who, depending on one's point of view, is either being denied NFL employment by the short-sighted, unimaginative lemmings who operate the teams … or who should be allowed into a stadium only if he buys a ticket.

Feelings toward Tebow, the person, can be just as diametrically opposed. Outspoken about his Christian beliefs, the quarterback is someone who practices what he fervently preaches, by all accounts living virtuously in a calling overpopulated by scoundrels.

Or he is an in-your-face zealot who should treat religion as a private matter outside of a place of worship and confine his talking points to the two-minute drill and the read-option.

Tebow is a tailor-made topic for this high-speed communication age. Simply mentioning his name can trigger a visceral response. Not by his own doing, he has become celebrity first, pro athlete second, manufactured so by a media that love him. Or, in some corners, love to hate him.

A cottage industry has spun out of the Tebow phenomenon, with television and radio personalities, podcasters, writers, bloggers and other bloviators devoting massive amounts of airtime, ink and cyberspace to him.

Slow news day? No worries. For the news people, Tim Time can be anytime. It is a wonder that no Tebow network has surfaced on cable TV, between the soap opera and sci-fi channels.

So much attention paid to a player who has done so little. Whose stat line from last season is remarkable only for its, well, shortage of statistics: six passes thrown, 12 rushing attempts.

And he was not backing up an elite quarterback, a Tom Brady or a Manning brother, for example. Last season, Tebow could not scrounge out more than token snaps on a team with the league's most disparaged quarterback. Mark Sanchez has become a boo magnet, a bust of such magnitude that the New York Jets were the second club to claim a QB in the recent draft.

Soon after, they cut their losses by cutting Tebow, an admission that his acquisition a year ago was rock-headed.

With the memory of his 2011 play-off season with the Denver Broncos not too distant, surely his release would trigger a mad rush to the waiver wire by teams eager for his services. No doubt, some would be enticed by his acknowledged leadership qualities and intrigued by matching his unusual skills set with the evolving job duties of pro quarterback. (See: Kaepernick, Colin.)

Uh, no. Every franchise passed on Tebow, making him the most famous of the 11.7 million unemployed Americans.

With the NFL taking a hiatus, maybe the US media would give it a rest.

Not a chance. Early this week, they reported ad nauseam on Tebow being declared the most influential athlete in America by Forbes magazine, which drew from two respected national surveys. The guy no team wants out-polled the premier swimmer (Michael Phelps), sprinter (Usain Bolt) and baseball player (Derek Jeter) of this era.

This was less a referendum of the best sportsmen than on the most admired. Devout Christians feel a kinship with Tebow, who endeared himself by etching the number of an oft-quoted Bible verse in his eye-black as a university player until the national association banned all facial messages. But still …

The media caught their breath, then reloaded when learning of a supporter who got the notion to solicit another American of some influence to help Tebow land a job.

On a website operated by the White House, where citizens are welcome to post petitions related to governance, someone attempted to raise enough signatures to persuade Barack Obama, the president, to use his influence to get Tebow placed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Look for the next petition to request that "Tebowing", the widely copied (and mocked) gesture of dropping to one knee in a prayerful pose, be declared the official successor to the high-five.

Certainly, some team will extend an invitation to Tebow before training camps open, in July. Meantime, speculation centres on a future in the lesser Canadian Football League, where he would perhaps be a better fit.

Except that the Montreal Alouettes, who hold the CFL rights to Tebow, say he would have to settle for being a second-stringer - behind a 40-year-old starter.

If he never pans out, the title for a Tebow biography could be borrowed from a Shakespeare classic: Much Ado About Nothing.

Ah, forget books, a relic of the past. Tebow is the perfect athlete for the social-media generation. Eventually, we might be able to cover the details of his NFL career with the 140 characters of a tweet.

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