Tebow enthusiasts can enumerate a long list of likable qualities about their favorite overachieving quarterback: friendly with fans, generous with his time and money, unflinchingly earnest in an age of rampant cynicism, and relentless in the face of opposition (both that of competing teams and maligning analysts). Is he likable enough, though, to make you like someone who likes him? What about if you hate the person who likes him? Not hatred of the personal soul-consuming sort, but just that sports fan level of disdain that makes you consistently root against someone. Well, my admiration for Tebow has me taking my cheering talents to South Beach this year, somewhere I never thought they would go.
Just last year, my contempt for LeBron James and all things Miami Heat made the playoffs interesting. My hapless Phoenix Suns didn't even make the postseason, so I was on a frenzied adoption campaign, picking up teams like they were orphans on one of Angelina Jolie's overseas trips. A team's only requirement for my new, and admittedly provisional, allegiance was a playoff date against the Miami Heat. I thus had fan stints with the Sixers, Celtics, Bulls and Mavs, and every new series brought dread that my new team would fall like the last, and that I, in the process, would be ultimately vanquished by my foe, LeBron James.
But how did this get so personal? What did LeBron James ever do to me? I'm not even from Cleveland!
I guess it started where most anti-LeBron sentiment was born: at "The Decision." I'm not sure why I expected a less unabashed sense of self-importance from a guy who calls himself "King James," but I did. This was a player who had slugged it out old-school style, sticking with one team through all the regular season success and postseason failure. And now he had the audacity to go all cavalier with his Cavaliers, ditching them like they were geeky grade school buddies keeping him out of the popular crowd. What's more, LeBron unfriended the Cavs after an hour of nauseating television. "Not cool, man," I thought.
So all year I rooted against him, vicariously hoisting the championship trophy with the team of my final don't-let-LeBron-win adoption campaign. I applauded Dallas as if I had been in their camp since childhood.
But then people started hating Tebow, and I was perplexed, enlightened and finally convicted, in that order. At first I couldn't understand the animosity, but soon I found some parallels with the LeBron situation. Tebow didn't call himself "king," but a growing throng of faithful seemed to crown him such, and Tebow wasn't doing anything to calm the frenzy. More importantly, though, I started asking a couple of questions of Tebow's critics that fell just as quickly back to me. Why not just take all that energy you are using to criticize the guy and channel it in a more positive direction? Can you find someone you admire and cheer like crazy for him? After all, the world has enough negative energy.
So I'm doing an about-face and looking at Lebron in a new light: as someone stretching and straining to grab one of the few achievements still outside his reach. I would like to think that I would have turned empathetic even if LeBron hadn't tweeted his support for Tebow, but that online backing probably played a part in helping me rethink how I direct my sports enthusiasm. And now that the NBA is finally back, there will be a sequel to my personal saga with LeBron; like all the best sequels, this one has a twist.
I want LeBron James to win an NBA title this year. That's right. I want Skip Bayless to look up at LeBron and say, "All you do is win!" LeBron, if you are reading this, I'm Tebowing for you, man!