If you are baffled by some of the vehemently negative reactions to Tim Tebow's trade to New York, imagine you are alone on a stroll when suddenly confronted by a frenzied mob fueled with intoxicating religious devotion, so convinced by the urgency of their righteous march they will trammel any perceived obstacle in their path—including you.
This is the unchecked, unqualified, unsophisticated picture that the media has created of Tebow’s fan base.
Nod at your screen if you have heard the following charges: The first interception that New York Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez throws will be followed by a chorus of calls for Tebow to take over the reins.
Thank you. I see that nod and appreciate the reader participation.
What about some version of the following sentiment?
Tebow has the blind support of an ignorant Christian fan base who willfully turns the other cheek and their eyes away from football evidence of Tebow’s QB deficiencies, so that they can clamor without compunction to “Unleash!” Tebow into the starting position; these same benighted folk, it is assumed, are also ready to excuse and justify any subsequent lapse in his play once he is given a chance on the field.
Are these apocalyptic warnings about the doom that Tebow will supposedly bring to New York based on evidence?
Okay, I saw the nods and now I can hear some virtual screams:
Evidence?! Are you kidding me?! Did you see what happened in Denver last year?! Remember, those crazy Christians that put up the billboard for Tebow, demanding that he start over Kyle Orton?
Hmm...oh, you mean those Muslims that did that?
They were Muslims?
Oh, okay, well how about all that Tebowing that his “Fundamentalist” Christian fans started. That widespread Christian grandstanding was beyond annoying!
Oh, you mean that phenomenon that Jared Kleinstein, a Jew, helped launch through his website.
While we are clarifying here, both the multi-religious and secular fan base in Denver who started crying out for Tebow after watching the Broncos sputter out of the gate with a 1-4 record did so following a season in which the Broncos had gone 4-12. Again, if you will humor me for a second, please imagine your favorite team and then say 5-16 over and over again while monitoring your pulse.
It is unfair to the good people of Denver to compare their once exasperated plight to New York Jet fans who have seen their fair share of recent playoff births and wins.
Yes, last year was disappointing for the Jets and Mark Sanchez’s emotions might have been as shaky as his performance in his last three games, but even in a letdown year the Jets finished with the same record, 8-8, that the Broncos put up during their “miraculous” run.
Believe me, if there are any audible calls from fans in New York for Tebow to start ahead of Sanchez, you will also hear a chorus of chants for Tebow to stay far away from the field. Why overestimate the power of Tebow’s fan base and underestimate his legion of football naysayers?
Besides, Tebow sounded both excited and realistic when addressing his move to New York and seemed to understand what the Jets wanted from him:
Well, they were just pretty specific to come in and compete and get better as a quarterback and find ways to help the team in other areas, and whatever that means: if its short yardage, if that's red zone, if that's wildcat, whatever that is, to just try to help the team. And that's my goal is to go in and compete and to get better as a quarterback and help the team in whatever way I can.
This is a much different situation than Denver. The Jets are not saying that Tebow is going to compete for the starting position, as the Broncos had insisted at various points in Denver. In fact, the Jets have taken great pains to assure everyone that Sanchez is the only undisputed first-string QB on this squad.
Tebow will be a role player with the Jets and he knows it.
For those worried that Tebow’s fan base will not quietly accept such limited but varied field action for Tebow, ask who is the faceless crazed mass we are talking about?
Where are the polls and statistics of this fan base that distinguish between all the variables relevant to a widespread following, such as religion, class, race, gender etc.? Are people doing interviews with a wide sample of Tebow enthusiasts? If not, why are people so thoroughly convinced that this is some monolithic mass that acts in a uniformly boisterous and unthinking manner?
Although there may be an affinity between evangelical Christianity and Tebowmania, that relationship is likely complex and plays out differently in different situations.
Some Tebow detractors want the Tebow faithful to “stop drinking the kool-aid,” as the less nuanced among them put it, and to instead swallow sober assessments of Tebow as a below-average QB. It might be good for Tebow-phobes to take a big gulp of their own medicine and be a little more rational about the Tebow move to New York.
The Jets get a former starting QB willing to play a reduced role, who will do so by picking up his lunch pail everyday and working his butt off for the team.
That sounds like a New York state of mind to me.