Our hockey team is in the Stanley Cup finals, competing for a historic second championship in three years.
Our baseball team is in first place, ahead of the always detestable New York Yankees.
Our basketball team might lose its beloved head coach.
Because they signed a backup quarterback.
Granted: the quarterback in question is Tim Tebow, the squeaky clean, photogenic darling of the Christian Right. He famously appeared in a pro-life Super Bowl ad (see below) with his mother for the socially conservative nonprofit Focus on the Family. He is the inspiration behind the phrase “Tebowing,” that is, bending on one knee to pray, a pose he routinely strikes in uniform. In addition, he is arguably the best quarterback in the history of college football, having won two titles and the Heisman Trophy at the University of Florida. He even has a winning track record as a professional, having helmed the Denver Broncos to a division title and playoff victory in 2011. And on top of all this, he is a GQ cover boy. (Great headline on that story, by the way: “Have You Accepted Tim Tebow as Your QB and Sunday Savior?“)
But in terms of on-the-field significance — that is, impact on winning or losing games — this move by the Patriots borders on irrelevant.
That’s mainly because Tebow might not make the team. The Patriots rarely carry more than two quarterbacks on their roster. Most seasons it’s just Tom Brady and a lone, distant backup. Last season, the Pats’ second string QB was 6 foot 6 Ryan Mallett, whose howitzer of a throwing arm makes Tebow’s talents — competitiveness and speed — seem pedestrian. If Mallett were on the NFL’s open market, he would not last one hour. Tebow, by contrast, was out there for the taking. The Patriots were able to sign him without guaranteeing him any money. Even if Tebow were to beat out Mallett for the backup job, the fact remains: Here in New England, he is a benchwarmer at best.
Even still, it doesn’t appear the Tebow hype is going away.
However, according to multiple sources — including The New York Times — the Patriots excel at minimizing the off-the-field distractions that certain individual players can bring.
What a crock. Starting tight end, Rob Gronkowski, appears almost as frequently on TMZ as he does on SportsCenter. Two months ago, starting cornerback, Alfonzo Dennard, was sentenced to 30 days in jail for assaulting a police officer. And late last year, starting middle linebacker, Brandon Spikes, made headlines when he posted a Tweet about being homophobic.
The notion that the Patriots are somehow capable of squashing diversions is silly. The team wins despite the distractions — not because the organization somehow puts the kibosh on unflattering news.
Are there silver linings to Tebow’s arrival?
Sure. For one thing, preseason games will be much more entertaining with Tebow under center. He’s not as talented as Mallett, but he is more fun to watch.
Also, there’s a lingering question about whether Tebow will learn to play a position other than quarterback. With Gronkowski on the mend — and tight end/H-back Aaron Hernandez never a safe bet to stay healthy — Tebow could provide more value at the bottom of the roster if he gains some positional versatility.
But until he makes the team, I don’t want to read about him. Certainly not while the Red Sox are in first place. And definitely not while the Bruins are on the verge of sports history.
Of course, it’s not lost on me that I’m adding to the noise by devoting an entire column to the topic.
So, I guess, the larger question is this: Why does Tim Tebow generate such buzz?
I’m not sure. But I’m reminded of a widely held generalization about rock and roll: While the best bands have mostly come from Great Britain, the greatest solo acts mostly hail from the good ol’ U.S. of A.
In a nation that venerates individualism above all else, Tebow is the football equivalent of a rock star. The self-possessed hero in a mythology of his own making.
Sure, none of it matters in terms of wins, or losses, or serious analysis of the same. But it does make his arrival in New England a more compelling story. A more compelling story than it deserves to be — but one that sells newspapers and drives web traffic all the same.
In any case, my Tim Tebow media diet starts now. Won’t you join me?