By Jason Keidel
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NEW YORK (WFAN) - New Yorkers recently rejoiced in an oddly warm week, brushing the dust off clothes normally reserved for May, sauntering about newly formed flora, smiling and bathing in swaths of sunshine between city blocks. Birds and bees peeked out and pecked at the premature fruits, and humans did the same.
And thus the mating rituals arrived early. Men whistled at women, and women pretended they didn’t enjoy it. You took long lunches, eating on the sunny steps of a public library or some secret nook behind your office building, or maybe near a fountain freckled with pennies that twinkled from the base of the pool.
You chuckled while tourists wandered like zombies through Rockefeller Center, nodding vigorously into maps, barking at their kids in various tongues, hauling those obscenely large backpacks jutting way over their heads, snapping pictures of the empty “Today Show” set as though they just found the Dead Sea Scrolls. You could almost hear the five boroughs and beyond inhale the fragrant charm of spring.
And Gang Green engaged in their yearly, gangrenous courtship: trading for a backup quarterback who required a Learjet, helicopter, a brigade of paparazzi and today’s press conference with the coverage and magnitude usually seen on the verdant lawn of the White House. You almost expect Chuck Todd, Helen Thomas, Brit Hume and Sam Donaldson to be in the crowd, asking highbrow questions about world affairs of a man wearing eye black and shoulder pads.
“Mr. Tebow, what do you think about Iran’s nuclear program? Will sanctions work? Do you worry about Israel striking soon?”
“I’m not sure, Helen. But God Bless.”
Thanks to the throngs of reporters whose lone job is to report all things No.15, we know where and what Tim Tebow watched on Broadway (“Wicked”) what Carnegie Deli designed for him (3.5 pounds of fatty meats on white bread) and where he will be at noon today (Florham Park, NJ, for his super-sized presser). Yes, the typical wares for a second or third-string signal caller.
It seems the Jets got heat stroke during the heat wave. Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum embarked an inverted form of the lecture circuit: he was scolded by every sports entity on Earth for trading for Tebow. Tannenbaum has an odd affectation when answering poignant questions. He begins every answer with “Sure…” — a kind of verbal tic, perhaps giving him a moment to arrange his next fib.
We know neither Tannenbow nor Rex Ryan pined for Tebow. The best reason either fine football mind could summon for summoning Tebow was the Wildcat offense, which has gone the way of leather helmets. Tannenbaum had the temerity to declare that Rex convinced him to fetch Tebow from the Rocky Mountains because … despite all his years of designing defenses, and a lifetime of learning under papa Buddy, Rex can’t counter the gimmick formation that no one runs anymore. And thus it was imperative to fetch a player who can’t run it half as well as those who did. Does Tim Tebow remind you of Ronnie Brown?
They really want us to believe this. And they also want us to believe that Mark Sanchez was not only kept in the loop on these negotiations, but also welcomes Tebow with open arms.
Tony Sparano is supposedly brewing complex running cocktails with Tebow under center. If memory serves, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were the Wildcat savants in South Beach. Perhaps Tebow looks so much like the dreaded, dreadlocked pothead that it’s easy to confuse the two.
All the hot air from the head coach and GM is subterfuge. Indeed, they loved the Wildcat’s results so much that they let Brad Smith walk to Buffalo, and we see how the Bills have prospered since Smith signed with them. Last week WFAN’s Mike Francesa said that Brad Smith’s stellar career with the Jets – and the Wildcat that so desperately needs to be recreated – produced a total of two touchdowns. No wonder the Jets fared so poorly last year; they had no one to replace Brad Smith!
Just as Jim Dolan coveted Carmelo Anthony in New York, Woody Johnson pulled rank on this rank trade. Johnson clearly prefers Q ratings to QB ratings. Each owner is eccentric: born billionaires who spend daddy’s fortune like brats. One man rides a scooter to work, the other plays guitar to tone-deaf crowds who clap only because he signs their paychecks.
Ryan and Tannenbaum have forced happy corporate faces over their new quarterback, the only backup player in history with over a million Twitter followers and a spellbound flock ready to follow him wherever he goes.
I spent much of last season basking in Tebow’s glow because he was a three-yard thorn in the side of the intelligentsia, a vivid reminder that those “Redneck Christians from the flyover states” are actually thoughtful human beings if you ever realized there was a world west of the Hudson. I detest the wind chimes and red wine crowd, living in the abstract world of art galleries, Apple stores and foreign films. They never travel north of Chelsea and their knowledge of New Jersey comes from the view from their luxury suites and reruns of The Sopranos.
But now, having defended him to my peril, I’ve swallowed a few feathers from the wings of Tebow’s flock, and I’m not as eager to root for the young man as I was just a week ago.
They all claim to be sports fans, mind you, yet all they tweet or post on Facebook is “Did you see TT on Sunday?” with “TT” garnering the same gravitas as “JC” – and I’m not exaggerating. The breadth of their football knowledge is little more than quoting the score and his stats. Frankly, it feels like an embellished Mingle With Single Christians chat room.
I have no doubt that Tim Tebow is honest, earnest and singularly dedicated to his biblical beliefs. Unfortunately for him, he’s also trendy, which means half his congregation is along for the ride as long as he’s hip. As soon as he gets married, half his female fan base will vanish. And as soon as he gets hurt or is benched for poor play, the male segment of Tebowmania will scurry toward the emergency exits. As incongruous as it sounds, Tebow is far better than the fools who follow him.
I respect anyone of faith who takes their deity seriously and treats people with the very respect that their faith demands. But this Tebow throng is beginning to feel creepy and cult-like. I’ve got too many people who profess to pray for me hourly to make this a comfortable relationship.
Yet I don’t want to follow in the same footsteps as my fellow Upper West Siders, blaming Tebow for people he can’t control. We can’t curse all Catholics because of a few rogue priests, blame all Muslims because of 9/11 or denounce Tebow because a horde of zealots pretend to speak for him.
The most important difference between adults and children is that we, the adults, can distinguish between fact and fantasy. At some point, we realize that Santa and the Tooth Fairy don’t exist. But these Tebow devotees seem to think that No. 15 is the Big Guy reincarnate.
That’s when you lose me. And once Tebow starts losing on the field, the NFL, the Jets and Jets fans won’t care what Psalms he can recite at team meetings. The NFL in general and New York City in particular realizes that football is a zero sum affair, and this affair with Tebow will have the sincerity of a Kardashian engagement if he doesn’t produce.
And now some of us have been shoved into the twin burdens of defending Mark Sanchez and lamenting Tim Tebow. And, honestly, neither guy deserves the white-hot scrutiny they’re receiving. Call it the searing sunlight of celebrity passing through the magnifying glass of America’s media vortex.
All Sanchez and Tebow have done since they entered the NFL is played their butts off, handled the spotlight with grace, and yet we imbue them with demonic or deified qualities based purely on projection.
John Elway, despite the public platitudes, couldn’t wait to dump Tebow. But not even Elway could get away with trading a folk hero without a serious replacement. And Peyton Manning qualified. Thus with one signature Tebow went from icon to irritant. And for some reason the Jets took that as a siren call to sign a player they can’t use.
Only the Jets would woo a legend (Manning), strike out, give the runner-up (Sanchez) some hush money, then stalk another quarterback (Tebow) with a fraction of the legend’s traction. Then, after giving said starter (Sanchez) $20 million the week before, trade for the backup (Tebow) who has more cachet than the starter. Then, failing to read fine print in the QB’s contract, the part where they owe Denver $5 million, they were given a chance to moonwalk from the idiotic trade. Yet they trade for the player once again that same day
And now Sanchez must be asked a million questions he can’t answer – what were his bosses thinking? How does Tebow impact the team? Does he feel threatened by such a popular player? How committed are the Jets to him? Sanchez can’t win on or off the field now that Tebow is over his shoulder.
Jacksonville would have been ideal for Tebow, who is from that area, played college ball for the Florida Gators, etched his name in the record books until the pen ran out of ink and is easily one of the five greatest players in NCAA history.
I’ve had some interesting chats all over cyberspace with folks who kneel at the altar of Tebow. As I said, all of them claim to be football fans first who just happened to catch the Tebow Wave at its peak. Sure. Just like all those Jeremy Lin fans who couldn’t find MSG on a map before they saw him on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and all those Carmelo Kool-Aid drinkers who hadn’t been to a Knicks game since Truck Robinson played power forward. Being trendy is a disease of the narcissist. If you put Tim and Lin in the same commercial it will go viral within an hour, even if the people watching are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.
But I’m a sports fan by rote and a sportswriter by trade. So judging Tebow should be a zero sum affair, based on observation and comparison to his peers. Maybe 30 years from now he’ll run for president. And maybe I’ll vote for him. But I can’t endorse Tebow as QB of the NYJ because, frankly, I think he’s more qualified to run the White House than the Jets’ offense. No offense.
And quietly, somewhere in Indiana, Drew Stanton is taking snaps from a center, far from the center of this circus. The symmetry is ironic and comical, yet perfect. Like some warped cycle of life, the storm started in Indianapolis, rumbled out to Denver, picked up power, rolled to New York, then ends with the silent trade of Stanton to Indiana, where he can actually do something the others cant – improve as a football player in relative anonymity, just a man and his job. Who would have thought that Drew Stanton got the best deal of all?
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