By Jason Keidel
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So Sandy Alderson is the biggest Tim Tebow fan of all. Or at least among those who matter.
The Mets general manager indicated this week he could accelerate the process so that the former NFL quarterback can get a real shot to play in Flushing at some point. For whatever reason, from blatant envy to closet self-loathing, people have been hating on Tebow since he was forging one of the best college careers in history as a Florida Gator. Tebow won one Heisman Trophy, and could easily have been the second player in history to win two.
Then we had Tebow’s NFL career, which was equal parts sublime, surreal and fleeting. He led the Denver Broncos on a playoff run and defeated the heavily favored, 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round, before losing to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in the next round.
Then Broncos brass — well, John Elway — jammed the eject button on Tebow. It took major onions to let Tebow walk at his professional and cultural apex. It’s hard to see now, but if you were alive and lucid six years ago, Tebowmania rolled the nation like a social media tidal wave. It was the gridiron version of Linsanity, on steroids. The difference was Tebow was already in the athletic and national vernacular long before he took the Broncos into the NFL playoffs.
Then he became toxic, and never got another shot to be an NFL starting quarterback. Between his looks, cultural magnetism and awkward throwing motion, he became too big to fit into a single roster spot. Teams didn’t want the most popular player on their team to be the backup QB. It was like Tebow was symbolically blackballed from pro football. (His one forgettable year with the Jets was the NFL equivalent.)
So Tebow took his blue eyes and high cheekbones to television, calling college football games. But his athletic itch became too great to scratch in a TV studio, so here he is, grinding in the Mets’ minor leagues, hitting about .230 in the process. Alderson, a smart man, a Harvard man and Marine officer, knows that Tebow on the Mets’ big-league club would be a sonic P.R. boom. Attendance, jersey sales and TV ratings would surely go upward in his presence, just as his single-A games were selling out.
Baseball, like other team sports, is a meritocracy, so if Tebow can’t hit MLB pitching, then he won’t make it. The reason Alderson is trying to blunt Tebow’s learning curve is more about age than wage or popularity. Tebow turns 31 in August, so he has a year or so to slip through a quickly closing window on his career.
Still, pundits and players, the media and the masses, are hating on Tebow. There’s long been this misguided sense that he’s stealing a roster spot from an otherwise qualified baseball player who’s going hungry, lost in Tebow’s epic national shadow. It’s all nonsense. If the Mets have the next Doc Gooden or Darryl Strawberry in their system, he won’t get squashed by Tebow’s athletic footprint.
The NFL was just better when Tebow was a part of it. Likewise, MLB in general and the Mets in particular would be more watchable and likable if Tebow makes the squad. He doesn’t deserve to make it if he can’t perform at a pro level. But if Alderson wants to nudge him up a notch, get him a quicker look than someone 10 years his junior, that’s hardly cause for an uproar, for this feigned or forced indignity that sprouts up like a weed whenever Tebow’s name is mentioned.
Admit you’d love to see Tebow in a Mets uniform, not in Coney Island, but in Flushing. You just want him to earn it, something he’s done his entire life.
Please follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel