90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Football

Ilan Mochari: From a sports perspective, the Patriots signing Tim Tebow is largely irrelevant. But that doesn't mean the media frenzy is going die down anytime soon. In this photo, Tebow is surrounded by reporters and cameramen after New England Patriots football practice in Foxborough, Mass., Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (Charles Krupa/AP)

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.

And yet it’s our football team that’s hogging all the headlines this week.

Tebow is the football equivalent of a rock star. The self-possessed hero in a mythology of his own making.

Why?

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?

Until he makes the team, I don’t want to read about him … Of course, it’s not lost on me that I’m adding to the noise by devoting an entire column to the topic.

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?

Related:

Tags: Boston, Celebrity, Football

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Clint Cavanaugh

    Tim Teb-who??

  • Ed

    The thing everyone misses is that professional football is a part of the entertainment industry. The money comes from T-shirt sales and ticket sales. You said it yourself, Tebow is fun to watch. He also sells T-shirts. Winning a Superbowl helps with T shirt sales, but having charismatic players does to. A lot of football players have very loudly done things that many find immoral. People who concern themselves with that can put on a Tim Tebow T-shirt and feel warm and fuzzy about it. All Tim Tebow has to do is sell enough T-shirts to pay his salary and not actually lose any games.
    Also, the news media likes to tie celebrities and current events to the big ongoing controversies in our society. It lets people who usually do celebrity gossip columns cover serious news. Tebow is a convenient launching off point for “the culture wars”, conflicts over the role of religion in society. People on one side see him as a brave hero standing by his principles in a culture where arrests and multiple baby-mammas are common. To the other side, he is a troll, someone they hate because of his pompousness, but can’t tear their eyes away from.

  • SteveW

    How about a James “Whitey” Bulger media diet while we’re at it? Is any story right now getting more play (print and broadcast) that has less significance?

  • Ilan Mochari

    Great points, Ed. Tebow is a safe way to broach larger questions.

  • Jasoturner

    Tebow will be no bid deal. In New York and, to a lesser extent, Denver, the starting QBs were clearly not elite. Thus it made a degree of sense that fans would be clamoring for Tebow. But here, Brady’s excellence is appreciated, and I think most fans would be disappointed to see him miss even a single snap at the expense of Tebow. Brady’s skill is so impressive, so enjoyable to watch, that no fan wants to miss him in a single play while he is still an active player. I don’t think the press will long waste their time scribbling about Tebow in New England.

    • Ed

      Brady isn’t indestructible. When he gets older, he is bound to get injured more. Having a backup could be useful. Of course, Ryan Mallett is the problem with that theory.

  • Matt

    You are contributing to the hype by writing an article about the Tebow hype. Why is this always done?

  • Ilan Mochari

    You’re right, Matt. I admit it at the end of the article.

  • pointpanic

    this is nothing but more trite “hero” mythologizing of a religious showboater.

  • Flitzy

    I still like him, even though I don’t watch American football all that much. It’s not his fault that the media always tries to make him a story but at least he’s humble and a positive role-model in a sport plagued by so many overgrown children and misogynists.

TOP