Truly polarizing athletes that can capture the attention of America and dominate headlines for years are certainly a rare breed.
To join the class of Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Brett Favre, Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning and other recent sports superstars you have to have more than a few redeeming qualities that the public, and more importantly, the sports media can latch on to and ultimately care about.
Being great at your sport is one thing, being charismatic and entertaining is quite another, and sports’ latest superhero, Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow, seems to be in a special class of popularity all by himself. He’s the conductor of a hype train that has come barreling through the NFL like a powerful locomotive.
“Tebow Mania” has gripped the entire country, and whether you love the guy or can’t stand him, the fact is, you’re definitely watching him, judging by the fact that yesterday’s Broncos-Steelers game was the highest rated wild card game in 24 years.
Never before has a quarterback in the NFL caused as much commotion and debate as Tebow did during the regular season this year.
There came a point when I thought ESPN would simply change its name to TTTV, Tim Tebow Television—all Tebow, all the time.
As a die-hard college football fan, I have been able to follow the Tim Tebow saga all the way from its inception, as I can remember back to his days as a five-star recruit at Florida’s Nease High School, and then his time in Gainesville with the Florida Gators, where he won a Heisman Trophy and two national championships.
And I can also vividly remember those rough few months leading up to the 2010 NFL draft when Tebow became the whipping boy of every wannabe scout and self-appointed draft expert you could find.
“His motion sucks, he’s overrated, he’s another spread quarterback who’ll never survive as a pro-passer.”
I remember all of the critiques well.
And yet, here we are, a country now stricken with Tebow fever.
Tim Tebow conquered the college football world and became one of the most memorable names in the history of the sport.
And now, he’s somehow managed to keep the momentum going in the NFL, something many said he wouldn't be able to do, as he's once again captured the attention of America.
It makes you wonder if there will ever be another college star who can cause this type of buzz and attention in the NFL.
Sure, there will always be great players that come up through the college ranks, and there will be two future star signal-callers available in the 2012 draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
But while Luck and RG3 are ultimately likely to develop into more consistent, reliable and successful pro passers than Tebow, it’s doubtful that either of them will ever be able to attain the same type of crossover appeal that Tebow now possesses.
It may take decades before we see another college star cause this much of a stir in the NFL the way Tebow has this year.
That’s not to say that there won’t be college stars who make an early impact in the NFL in the years to come; it’s just saying that they won’t cause the same frenzy that Tim Tebow has.
Cam Newton was just as entertaining, and more importantly, he was flat-out better in almost every way than Tim Tebow was this year, but the attention paid to Newton by the mainstream media this season was like a few whispers in a dark room compared to the type of treatment that Tebow received.
Tim Tebow’s become more than just a football player at this point. He’s a showcase. He’s the show. He’s made any game he’s playing in a must-see event that no one wants to miss.
Sure, it’s helped that the media has bought in and taken Tebow Mania to unprecedented levels, but when you have those redeeming qualities like Tebow possesses, you’re going to garner attention regardless of how much the media wants to make you a cover boy.
You have to figure that the hype train will eventually run out of steam, and the clock will inevitably run out on Tebow Time, but I say, let’s enjoy it while we can, because you’re not going to see a phenomenon like this in the NFL any time soon.