x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

We care a lot about Tim Tebow

He may have only been the 25th draft pick, but the hype around the Broncos quarterback is growing.

Tim Tebow in action for the Denver Broncos against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Tim Tebow in action for the Denver Broncos against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The 25th pick of the National Football League draft walks up to you, extends a hand and says, "Hi, I'm ... " "Tim Tebow, of course," you interrupt, whether he's normally coiffed, chrome-domed, hoodied or sporting the Friar Tuck hairdo fashioned in training camp by hazing Denver Broncos veterans. You would know him anywhere, any way. The first pick of the draft walks up to you, extends a hand and says, "Hi, I'm ... " "Wait a minute. Don't tell me," you jump in. "You're one of those Big 12 passers. That Colt dude? No? Then you must be, uh, Brad. Brad Samford."

OK, Sam Bradford may not be quite that anonymous. But, for the No 1 overall pick, getting paid federal bailout type of money, he has drawn far less attention during the drumroll for the NFL season than the other first-round rookie quarterback. Most reports from Denver's first exhibition game Sunday led off with an account of a Tebow trademark - turning a defender into roadkill on a seven-yard touchdown run.

It didn't matter that the score on the game's final snap meant the Broncos lost to Cincinnati by 11 points instead of 18. The media realise we care about Tebow. Some of us care because we want him to fail. How dare he wear his religious beliefs not just on his sleeve, but darn near head to toe? How dare he cry on the sidelines of a game? How dare he try to lead a group prayer before the written Wonderlic test for draft prospects?

How dare he commit a too-much-information violation and proclaim his virginity? (Never mind that it was in response to an inappropriate question.) How dare he interrupt the frivolity of Super Bowl Sunday by appearing in a pro-life TV ad? How dare he acquire a $20,000 (Dh73,466) hyperbaric oxygen chamber while in college at the University of Florida - and, by the way, who paid for it? The rest of us care about Tebow because we want him to succeed, for many of those same reasons. By all accounts, he was a legitimate student-athlete, a pairing of too often paradoxical words when applied to college players.

What's not to like about a former missionary who devotes time to charities and asks nothing more of teammates than he can deliver himself? For the few whose Tebow needle moves in neither direction on the admire/ire scale, we care because he is the most decorated collegian ever whose professional outlook is suspect for reasons other than lack of size. Some NFL draft boards buried him among fourth and fifth-rounders, owing to a looping throwing motion that was sometimes evident during Sunday night's action.

So we care out of curiosity: How will this rookie who provoked such disparity of opinion with talent evaluators fare? Will he be deployed only in run-minded Wildcat situations from several yards behind the centre? Or also in standard offensive sets with hands beneath the centre's backside? Will he beat out Brady Quinn as back-up to Kyle Orton? Or will the only carrying he does be with a clipboard as he stands on the sidelines watching the action?

With Bradford and the St Louis Rams, there is little mystery. He will start from the get-go for a team destined for a 4-12 record, give or take a loss. Behind a papier-mache offensive line, he will get badly hurt once, maybe twice - if he's lucky - and miss some starts. In his Rams debut on Saturday, Bradford got a preview of coming distractions, being sacked four times and tattooed three others.

His ordeal will mimic that of last year's No 1, Matthew Stafford, with dreadful Detroit. The rookie endured 10 games, winning two, before white-flagging his season with shoulder and knee injuries. Long-term, Bradford's impact will far exceed Tebow's. If nothing else, his unfathomable contract - $78m, including $50m guaranteed - helped nudge the sport toward a work stoppage next season. The owners, fed up partly with a system that lavishly rewards unproven draftees, are talking lockout to enforce a change for the future.

For now, our attention will be riveted on the other guy, the one with a mere $8.7m guaranteed on his contract. The one whose jersey (No 15) was the biggest-seller on nflshop.com in the year's second quarter, edging ahead of more established players such as Donovan McNabb, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo. The one who has inspired scads of jokes, mostly mocking his superhero image. ("When Google can't find something, it asks Tebow for help.")

"Hi, I'm Tim Tebow." Yes, we know. And we care. sports@thenational.ae